Phylogenomics and continental biogeographic disjunctions: insight from the Australian starflowers (Calytrix)

Francis J. Nge, Ed Biffin, Michelle Waycott, Kevin R. Thiele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


Premise: Continental-scale disjunctions and associated drivers are core research interests in biogeographic studies. Here, we selected a species-rich Australian plant genus (Calytrix; Myrtaceae) as a case study to investigate these patterns. Species of this endemic Australian starflower genus have a disjunct distribution across the mesic fringes of the continent and are largely absent from the arid center. Methods: We used high-throughput sequencing to generate unprecedented resolution and near complete species-level nuclear and plastid phylogenies for Calytrix. BioGeoBEARS and biogeographic stochastic mapping were used to infer ancestral areas, the relative contributions of vicariance and dispersal events, and directionality of dispersal. Results: Present-day disjunctions in Calytrix are explained by a combination of scenarios: (1) retreat of multiple lineages from the continental center to the more mesic fringes as Australia became progressively more arid, with subsequent extinction in the center as well as (2) origination of ancestral lineages in southwestern Australia (SWA) for species-rich clades. The SWA biodiversity hotspot is a major diversification center and the most common source area of dispersals, with multiple lineages originating in SWA and subsequently spreading to the adjacent arid Eremaean region. Conclusions: Our results suggest that major extinction, as a result of cooling and drying of the Australian continent in the Eocene–Miocene, shaped the present-day biogeography of Calytrix. We hypothesize that this peripheral vicariance pattern, which is similar to the African Rand flora, may explain the disjunctions of many other Australian plant groups. Further studies with densely sampled phylogenies are required to test this hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-308
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


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