Background and aims: Biogeographic transition zones are promising areas to study processes of biogeographic evolution and its influence on biological groups. The Mexican transition zone originated due to the overlap of Nearctic and Neotropical biota, which promoted great biological diversification. However, since most previous studies in this area were focused on revealing the phylogeography of Nearctic plants, how historical biogeographic configuration influenced the expansion and diversification of the Neotropical flora remains almost unknown. Using the cycad genus Dioon (Zamiaceae), this study aimed to test whether the biogeographic provinciality of the Mexican transition zone reflects the history of diversification of Neotropical plants.
Methods: Two chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) regions were analysed from 101 specimens of 15 Dioon species to reveal the distribution of haplogroups. In addition, genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from 84 specimens were used to test the concordance between phylogenetic clusters and the biogeographic provinces. An ultrametric tree was constructed from the sequences containing SNPs to reconstruct the biogeographic events of vicariance and dispersal of Dioon across the Neotropical biogeographic provinces.
Key results: Four Dioon lineages with strong phylogeographic structures were recognized using both cpDNA and SNP data. The lineages correspond to two clades that originated from a common ancestor in Eastern Mexico. One clade expanded and diversified in South-east Mexico and Central America. Another clade diversified into three lineages that dispersed to North-east, South and North-west Mexico. Each lineage was biogeographically delimitated. Biogeographic provinces might have provided disparate ecological conditions that facilitated speciation in Dioon since the Miocene.
Conclusions: The current genetic structure and species diversity of Dioon depict the history of expansion and diversification of the northernmost Neotropical provinces. Past biogeographic connectivities were favoured by elevated topographies, since mountain systems served as corridors for the migration of Dioon and as refugia of tropical communities that diversified during the formation of modern Neotropical forests.
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