From East Gondwana to Central America: historical biogeography of the Alstroemeriaceae


Juliana Chacón, Department of Biology, University of Munich, Systematic Botany and Mycology, Menzinger Strasse 67, 80638 Munich, Germany.


Aim  The Alstroemeriaceae is among 28 angiosperm families shared between South America, New Zealand and/or Australia; here, we examine the biogeography of Alstroemeriaceae to better understand the climatic and geological settings for its diversification in the Neotropics. We also compare Alstroemeriaceae with the four other Southern Hemisphere families that expanded from Patagonia to the equator, to infer what factors may have permitted such expansions across biomes.

Location  South America, Central America, Australia and New Zealand.

Methods  Three chloroplast genes, one mitochondrial gene and one nuclear DNA region were sequenced for 153 accessions representing 125 of the 200 species of Alstroemeriaceae from throughout the distribution range; 25 outgroup taxa were included to securely infer evolutionary directions and be able to use both ingroup and outgroup fossil constraints. A relaxed-clock model relied on up to three fossil calibrations, and ancestral ranges were inferred using statistical dispersal–vicariance analysis (S-DIVA). Southern Hemisphere disjunctions in the flowering plants were reviewed for key biological traits, divergence times, migration directions and habitats occupied.

Results  The obtained chronogram and ancestral area reconstruction imply that the most recent common ancestor of Colchicaceae and Alstroemeriaceae lived in the Late Cretaceous in southern South America/Australasia, the ancestral region of Alstroemeriaceae may have been South America/Antarctica, and a single New Zealand species is due to recent dispersal from South America. Chilean Alstroemeria diversified with the uplift of the Patagonian Andes c. 18 Ma, and a hummingbird-pollinated clade (Bomarea) reached the northern Andes at 11–13 Ma. The South American Arid Diagonal (SAAD), a belt of arid vegetation caused by the onset of the Andean rain shadow 14–15 Ma, isolated a Brazilian clade of Alstroemeria from a basal Chilean/Argentinean grade.

Main conclusions  Only Alstroemeriaceae, Calceolariaceae, Cunoniaceae, Escalloniaceae and Proteaceae have expanded and diversified from Patagonia far into tropical latitudes. All migrated northwards along the Andes, but also reached south-eastern Brazil, in most cases after the origin of the SAAD. Our results from Alstroemeria now suggest that the SAAD may have been a major ecological barrier in southern South America.