Gaynor, M. L., C.-N. Fu, L.-M. Gao, L.-M. Lu, D. E. Soltis, and P. S. Soltis. 2020. Biogeography and ecological niche evolution in Diapensiaceae inferred from phylogenetic analysis. Journal of Systematics and Evolution 58:646–662. [View on publisher’s site]


Diapensiaceae (Ericales) are a small family of about 15 species. Within this clade, two species are broadly distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, whereas the remaining species have a disjunct distribution between eastern North America and eastern Asia. To address patterns and processes of diversification in Diapensiaceae, we conducted biogeographic analyses and inferred shifts in the ecological niche across the phylogeny of the clade. Although Diapensiaceae have been the focus of multiple phylogenetic and biogeographic studies, previous studies have been taxonomically limited. This study has greatly improved the phylogenetic underpinning for Diapensiaceae with the most inclusive taxonomic sampling thus far, employing both nuclear and plastid gene sequence data for at least one sample per species in the family. Our estimates indicate that genera of Diapensiaceae variously diverged in the Eocene, Oligocene, and early to mid-Miocene. The biogeographic analysis suggests that the probable ancestor of the Diapensiaceae crown clade originated in the Nearctic, with vicariance events contributing to the current distribution of the disjunct taxa. Ecological niche, when considered in a phylogenetic context, was observed to be clustered on the basis of biogeographic realm. In general, a greater ecological overlap was found at younger nodes and a greater niche divergence was found among distantly related species. Diversification in Diapensiaceae appears to have been shaped by both large-scale biogeographic factors, such as vicariance, and divergence in an ecological niche among closely related species.