Landscape genetics, historical isolation and cross-Andean gene flow in the wax palm, Ceroxylon echinulatum (Arecaceae)


Finn Borchsenius, Fax: +45 89 42 27 22; E-mail:


Knowledge of the role of landscapes in shaping genetic connectivity and divergence is essential for understanding patterns of biogeography and diversity. This is particularly relevant for the Andes region, a major biodiversity hotspot of relatively recent origin. We examined the phylogeography and landscape genetics of the Andean wax palm Ceroxylon echinulatum (Arecaceae) that occurs in two narrow bands of montane forests on each side of the Andes in Ecuador and northeastern Peru. First, we tested the hypothesis of C. echinulatum being a geographic cline species crossing the Andes in the Amotape–Huancabamba zone (AHZ) of southern Ecuador/northern Peru, as indicated by observations on fruit morphology. Second, we assessed the timeframe of cross-Andean divergence, and third, we investigated the impact of contemporary and historical landscape features on observed spatio-genetic patterns. Individual-based Bayesian clustering (BC) identified a northeastern, southeastern, southwestern, and northwestern cluster, with areas of genetic discontinuity coinciding with the Andes and the Giron–Paute deflection. F-statistics derived from BC suggested an east-to-west dispersal history. Population-based analyses revealed strong genetic structuring at both small and large geographic scales. Interpopulation relationships and Mantel tests strongly supported the cline model with cross-Andean dispersal in the AHZ. Along the cline, gene flow measured as FST was mainly limited by distance, with less but significant impact of climatic friction. Coalescent analysis revealed that cross-Andean divergence took place during the Quaternary. Significant historical isolation (RST > FST) was found in the southwestern population. The current study illustrates a joint effect of founder dynamics, divergence by distance and historical isolation on patterns of Andean diversity and distribution.