Renner, Susanne S.; Clausing, G.; Meyer, K.
Historical biogeography of Melastomataceae. the roles of Tertiary migration and long-distance dispersal.
In: American Journal of Botany, Vol. 88, No. 7: pp. 1290-1300
Melastomataceae and Memecylaceae are pantropically distributed sister groups for which an ndhF gene phylogeny for 91 species in 59 genera is here linked with Eurasian and North American fossils in a molecular clock approach to biogeographical reconstruction. Nine species from the eight next-closest families are used to root phylogenetic trees obtained under maximum likelihood criteria. Melastomataceae comprise ∼3000 species in the neotropics, ∼1000 in tropical Asia, 240 in Africa, and 225 in Madagascar in 150-166 genera, and the taxa sampled come from throughout this geographic range. Based on fossils, ranges of closest relatives, tree topology, and calibrated molecular divergences, Melastomataceae initially diversified in Paloecene/Eocene times in tropical forest north of the Tethys. Their earliest (Eocene) fossils are from northeastern North America, and during the Oligocene and Miocene melastomes occurred in North America as well as throughout Eurasia. They also entered South America, with earliest (Oligocene) South American fossils representing Merianieae. One clade (Melastomeae) reached Africa from the neotropics 14-12 million years ago and from there spread to Madagascar, India, and Indochina. Basalmost Melastomataceae (Kibessieae, Astronieae) are species-poor lineages restricted to Southeast Asia. However, a more derived Asian clade (Sonerileae/Dissochaeteae) repeatedly reached Madagascar and Africa during the Miocene and Pliocene. Contradicting earlier hypotheses, the current distribution of Melastomataceae is thus best explained by Neogene long-distance dispersal, not Gondwana fragmentation.