Molecular phylogeny and timing of radiation in Lessonia (Phaeophyceae, Laminariales)


  • Communicating editor: S.-M. Lin.

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The genus Lessonia Bory de Saint-Vincent is distributed solely in the Southern Hemisphere, with four species found in South America and five in Australasia. Our goal was to determine the evolutionary relationships between the Lessonia species of the two disjunct areas and hypothesize dispersal patterns and timing of radiation. We combined mitochondria, plastid and nuclear markers in a comprehensive dataset from multiple individuals per known species. Furthermore, for some species we added samples from multiple populations to take account of their widespread distribution over known bioregions. In all analyses the Australasian Lessonia formed a monophyletic group and in most analyses the South American species form a paraphyletic grade. Delimitations of the accepted species are highly supported except for L. variegata J. Agardh and L. nigrescens Bory de Saint-Vincent. We showed for the first time four lineages for the New Zealand endemic Lessonia variegata with an unexpected high level of genetic differentiation. Our analysis cannot resolve whether the dispersal of the common ancestor of this genus was from the Americas to Australasia or vice versa. Molecular clock analysis suggested that a sudden radiation took place in Australasia c. 3.5 Mya when almost all Australasian species diverged within a time frame of only 35 000 years.