Aim: To reconstruct the temporal and biogeographical history of Old World disjunctions in Scabiosa (Dipsacaceae) and the timing of diversification in the Mediterranean Basin, in order to evaluate the importance of biogeographical and climatological history (particularly the onset of a mediterranean climate) in shaping Scabiosa distributions.
Location: Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, southern Africa and eastern Asia.
Methods: This study uses maximum-likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic analyses of chloroplast DNA (atpB–rbcL, trnL–trnF, trnS–trnG, psbA–trnH) and nuclear ribosomal DNA [internal transcribed spacer (ITS) and external transcribed spacer (ETS)] from 24 out of c. 37 ingroup taxa, beast molecular dating, and the dispersal–extinction–cladogenesis method (Lagrange) to reconstruct ancestral geographical ranges and the timing of diversification of the major clades of Scabiosa.
Results: Biogeographical and divergence time reconstructions showed that Scabiosa originated during the Miocene and diversified in Europe, followed by independent movements into Asia and Africa. Several of the major clades were inferred to have radiated sometime between the late Miocene and early Pleistocene, a timeframe that encompasses the onset of the mediterranean climate in Europe. More recent middle–late Pleistocene radiations in the Mediterranean Basin and southern Africa have played a large role in Scabiosa diversification.
Main conclusions: Members of Scabiosa appear to have capitalized on adaptations to montane and/or dry conditions in order to colonize similar habitats in different biogeographical regions. The formation of the East African Rift mountains is potentially of great importance in explaining the southward migration of Scabiosa. The initial diversification of Scabiosa in Europe during the Miocene is not consistent with the initiation of the mediterranean climate, but may instead be associated with increased aridity and the retreat of subtropical lineages during this time. However, the radiation of some of the major subclades within Scabiosa may have been associated with an emerging mediterranean climate. More recent and rapid radiations in both the Mediterranean Basin and southern Africa highlight the probable importance of Pleistocene climate fluctuations in Scabiosa diversification.