Historical biogeography of the fern genus Polystichum (Dryopteridaceae) in Austral South America.Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2019 08; 137:168-189.MP
A group of seven endemic Polystichum species inhabit Patagonia, the southern region of South America. To date, evolutionary relationships of these Austral South American Polystichum remain unknown. The biota of the Southern Andes appears to be more closely related to the temperate Australasian species than to northern South American ones. Differences in morphological characters suggested that Austral South American Polystichum follows that biogeographical pattern, not being closely related to their congeners in the Northern and Central Andes. We sought to reveal the evolutionary relationships, estimate the divergence times and reconstruct both ancestral areas and ancestral ploidy levels of Austral South America Polystichum. Phylogenetic relationships were estimated using maximum likelihood and Bayesian approaches. The seven Austral South American species plus 31 Polystichum species spanning all other major biogeographic regions were sampled for three DNA markers. Divergence times were estimated in BEAST and Bayesian binary Markov chain Monte Carlo reconstruction was applied in order to infer ancestral areas. The evolution of ploidy was reconstructed on the maximum clade credibility tree, using stochastic character mapping. Austral South American Polystichum was recovered as monophyletic. The earliest divergence reconstructed within the Austral South American Clade was that of Polystichum andinum; subsequently two other lineages diverged comprising the remaining Austral South American species. The Austral South American lineage is not closely allied to North and Central Andes congeners. Long-distance dispersal of an ancestral tetraploid from Australasia during the late Miocene is the most likely explanation for the origin of Patagonian Polystichum. Then, Pliocene and Pleistocene orogenic and climatic changes may have shaped its diversification in Patagonia.