New powerful biogeographic methods have focused attention on long-standing hypotheses regarding the influence of the break-up of Gondwana on the biogeography of Southern Hemisphere plant groups. Studies to date have often concluded that these groups are too young to have been influenced by these ancient continental movements. Here we examine a much larger and older angiosperm clade, the Campanulidae, and infer its biogeographic history by combining Bayesian divergence time information with a likelihood-based biogeographic model focused on the Gondwanan landmasses.
Our analyses imply that campanulids likely originated in the middle Albian (~105 Ma), and that a substantial portion of the early evolutionary history of campanulids took place in the Southern Hemisphere, despite their greater species richness in the Northern Hemisphere today. We also discovered several disjunctions that show biogeographic and temporal correspondence with the break-up of Gondwana.
While it is possible to discern traces of the break-up of Gondwana in clades that are old enough, it will generally be difficult to be confident in continental movement as the prime cause of geographic disjunctions. This follows from the need for the geographic disjunction, the inferred biogeographic scenario, and the dating of the lineage splitting events to be consistent with the causal hypothesis.
BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:80 doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-80