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Historical biogeography of Tecophilaeaceae

The complex history of the family Tecophilaeaceae has been revealed by molecular methods.

614 Cyanella alba (Main).jpg

Cyanella alba (Tecophilaeaceae) in the Cape of South Africa (Photo: F. Forest)

Tecophilaeaceae are a small family of 27 species and eight genera with a disjunct distribution in California, Chile and southern and tropical mainland Africa, and they occur in three different Mediterranean-type ecosystems. Researchers from Kew and the South African National Biodiversity Institute investigated the spatio-temporal history of the family using a molecular approach (DNA sequencing, divergence time estimation, and diversification and biogeography patterns).

They found that the current distribution and diversification patterns of the family were influenced mostly by the fragmentation of Gondwana and the establishment of Mediterranean climate in Chile where the genus Conanthera diversified. Interestingly, unlike many groups previously studied, no increase in diversification was identified in the clade found mostly in the Greater Cape region of South Africa.

The family has a complex history, involving an origin of the African clade in sub-tropical Africa, despite its current predominance in arid environments, and the colonisation of Mediterranean-type ecosystems in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres before the establishment of these climates.

Item from Dr Félix Forest (Head of Molecular Systematics, RBG Kew)
Kew Scientist, issue 43.

Article reference:

Buerki, S., Manning, J.C. & Forest, F. (2013). Spatio-temporal history of the disjunct family Tecophilaeaceae: a tale involving the colonization of three Mediterranean-type ecosystems. Annals of Botany 111: 361–373.

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