Phylogeny and historical biogeography of Lithospermeae (Boraginaceae): Disentangling the possible causes of Miocene diversifications
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Studies about the drivers of angiosperm clade diversifications have revealed how the environment continuously alters the species chances to adapt or to go extinct. This process depends on complex interactions between abiotic and biotic factors, conditioned to the geological and tectonic settings, the genetic variability of species and the rate at which speciation occurs. In this study, we aim to elucidate the timing of diversification of the Lithospermeae, the second largest tribe within Boraginaceae, and to identify the possible morphological and ecological characters associated with shifts in diversification rates of the most species-rich clades. Lithospermeae includes ca. 470 species and 26 genera, among which are some of the largest genera of the family such as Onosma (150 spp.), Echium (60 spp.), and Lithospermum (80 spp.). An exhaustive study of the whole clade is not available to date and its evolutionary history and diversification rates are incompletely known. In the present study, we provide the most comprehensive phylogeny of the group so far, sampling 242 species and all 26 genera. We found that crown-groups and diversification rates of Lithospermeae largely date back to the Mid-Miocene, with high diversification rates in the largest genera, though only significantly high in Onosma. Our analysis fails to associate any of the functional or morphological traits considered with significant shifts in diversification rates. The timing of the diversification of the species-rich clades corresponds with Miocene tectonic events and global climate changes increasing aridity across Eurasia and western North America. These results suggest a causal link between known ecological features of Lithospermeae (i.e., pre-adaptation to arid, open habitats, and mineral soils) and their diversification. Future studies should expand the sampling of individual subclades and detailed functional analyses to identify the contribution of adaptations to arid conditions and pollinator shifts.
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