Traces of ancient range shifts in a mountain plant group (Androsace halleri complex, Primulaceae)


Christopher J. Dixon, Fax: +43 1 4277 9541; E-mail:


Phylogeographical studies frequently detect range shifts, both expansions (including long-distance dispersal) and contractions (including vicariance), in the studied taxa. These processes are usually inferred from the patterns and distribution of genetic variation, with the potential pitfall that different historical processes may result in similar genetic patterns. Using a combination of DNA sequence data from the plastid genome, AFLP fingerprinting, and rigorous phylogenetic and coalescence-based hypothesis testing, we show that Androsace halleri (currently distributed disjunctly in the northwestern Iberian Cordillera Cantábrica, the eastern Pyrenees, and the French Massif Central and Vosges), or its ancestor, was once more widely distributed in the Pyrenees. While there, it hybridized with Androsace laggeri and Androsace pyrenaica, both of which are currently allopatric with A. halleri. The common ancestor of A. halleri and the north Iberian local endemic Androsace rioxana probably existed in the north Iberian mountain ranges with subsequent range expansion (to the French mountain ranges of the Massif Central and the Vosges) and allopatric speciation (A. rioxana, A. halleri in the eastern Pyrenees, A. halleri elsewhere). We have thus been able to use the reticulate evolution in this species group to help elucidate its phylogeographical history, including evidence of range contraction.