• Cerrado rupestre;
  • climatic relict;
  • coalescent analysis;
  • cpDNA;
  • disjunct geographical distribution;
  • microsatellites


Many endemic species present disjunct geographical distribution; therefore, they are suitable models to test hypotheses about the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms involved in the origin of disjunct distributions in these habitats. We studied the genetic structure and phylogeography of Tibouchina papyrus (Melastomataceae), endemic to rocky savannas in Central Brazil, to test hypothesis of vicariance and dispersal in the origin of the disjunct geographical distribution. We sampled 474 individuals from the three localities where the species is reported: Serra dos Pirineus, Serra Dourada, and Serra de Natividade. Analyses were based on the polymorphisms at cpDNA and on nuclear microsatellite loci. To test for vicariance and dispersal we constructed a median-joining network and performed an analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA). We also tested population bottleneck and estimated demographic parameters and time to most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) using coalescent analyses. A remarkable differentiation among populations was found. No significant effect of population expansion was detected and coalescent analyses showed a negligible gene flow among populations and an ancient coalescence time for chloroplast genome. Our results support that the disjunct distribution of T. papyrus may represent a climatic relict. With an estimated TMRCA dated from ∼836.491 ± 107.515 kyr BP (before present), we hypothesized that the disjunct distribution may be the outcome of bidirectional expansion of the geographical distribution favored by the drier and colder conditions that prevailed in much of Brazil during the Pre-Illinoian glaciation, followed by the retraction as the climate became warmer and moister.