Aim We reconstructed the phylogeny of the lichen genus Nephroma (Peltigerales) to assess the relationships of species endemic to Macaronesia. We estimated dates of divergences to test the hypothesis that the species arose in Macaronesia (neo-endemism) versus the oceanic archipelagos serving as refugia for formerly widespread taxa (palaeo-endemism).
Location Cosmopolitan with a special focus on the archipelagos of the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands.
Methods DNA sequences were obtained from 18 species for three loci and analysed using maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood and Bayesian inferences. Divergence dates were estimated for the internal transcribed spacer (ITS)-based phylogeny using a relaxed molecular clock. Reconstruction of the ancestral geographical range was conducted using the Bayesian 50% majority rule consensus tree under a parsimony method.
Results The backbone phylogenetic tree was fully supported, with Nephroma plumbeum as sister to all other species. Four strongly supported clades were detected: the Nephroma helveticum, the N. bellum, the N. laevigatum and the N. parile clades. The latter two share a common ancestor and each includes a widespread Holarctic species (N. laevigatum and N. parile, respectively) and all species endemic to Macaronesia. The data suggest a neo-endemic origin of Macaronesian taxa, a recent range expansion from Macaronesia of both widespread species, a range expansion limited to the Mediteranean Basin and south-western Europe for another taxon, and a long dispersal event that resulted in a speciation event in the western parts of North America.
Main conclusions The Macaronesian endemic species belong to two sister clades and originated from a most recent common ancestor (MRCA) shared with one widely distributed taxon, either N. parile or N. laevigatum. Estimates of the mean divergence dates suggest that the endemics originated in the archipelagos after the rise of the volcanic islands, along with the ancestor to the now widespread species, which probably expanded their range beyond Macaronesia via long-distance dispersal. This study provides the first phylogenetic evidence of Macaronesian neo-endemism in lichenized fungi and provides support for the hypothesis that oceanic islands may serve as a source for the colonization of continents. However, further data are needed to properly assess the alternative hypothesis, namely colonization from western North America.