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Keywords:

  • Back-colonization;
  • bryophyte;
  • island biogeography;
  • liverwort;
  • Macaronesia;
  • Mediterranean;
  • phylogeography;
  • refugium

Abstract

Aim  Bryophytes exhibit apparently low rates of endemism in Macaronesia and differ from angiosperms in their diversity patterns by the widespread occurrence of endemics within and among archipelagos. This paper investigates the phylogeography of the leafy liverwort Radula lindenbergiana to determine: (1) whether or not morphologically cryptic diversification has occurred in Macaronesia, and (2) the relationships between Macaronesian and continental populations.

Location  Macaronesia, Europe, Africa.

Methods  Eighty-four samples were collected across the species’ distribution range and sequenced at four chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) loci (atpB–rbcL, trnG, trnL and rps4). Phylogenetic reconstructions and Bayesian ancestral area reconstructions were used in combination with population genetics statistics (H, NST, FST) to describe the pattern of present genetic diversity in R. lindenbergiana and infer its biogeographic history.

Results  Patterns of genetic diversity in R. lindenbergiana exhibit a striking westwards gradient, wherein haplotype (0.90) and nucleotide (0.0038 ± 0.0019) diversity peak in Macaronesia, with a substantial endemic component. We found 20.9% of the genetic variance between biogeographic regions, and most pairwise FST comparisons between regions are significantly different from zero. The global NST (0.78) is significantly higher than the global FST (0.20), providing evidence for the presence of phylogeographic signal in the data. Ancestral area reconstructions suggest that the haplotypes currently found in western Europe share a Macaronesian common ancestor.

Main conclusions  The haplotype diversification exhibited by R. lindenbergiana in Macaronesia is comparable to that reported for many angiosperm groups at the species level. The apparent lack of radiation among Macaronesian bryophytes may thus reflect the reduced morphology of bryophytes in comparison with angiosperms. The high diversity found among Macaronesian haplotypes, especially in Madeira and the Canary Islands, and the significant NST/FST ratio between Macaronesia and all the other biogeographic regions (an indication that mutation rate exceeds dispersal rates) suggest that Macaronesian archipelagos could have served as a refugium during the Quaternary glaciations. Many haplotypes currently found in Europe share a Macaronesian common ancestor, and this further suggests that Macaronesia might have played a key role in the back-colonization of the continent.