Joint phylogenetic estimation of geographic movements and biome shifts during the global diversification of Viburnum

Michael J. Landis, Deren A.R. Eaton, Wendy L. Clement, Brian Park, Elizabeth L. Spriggs, Patrick W. Sweeney, Erika J. Edwards, Michael J. Donoghue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Phylogeny, molecular sequences, fossils, biogeography, and biome occupancy are all lines of evidence that reflect the singular evolutionary history of a clade, but they are most often studied separately, by first inferring a fossil-dated molecular phylogeny, then mapping on ancestral ranges and biomes inferred from extant species. Here we jointly model the evolution of biogeographic ranges, biome affinities, and molecular sequences, while incorporating fossils to estimate a dated phylogeny for all of the 163 extant species of the woody plant clade Viburnum (Adoxaceae) that we currently recognize in our ongoing worldwide monographic treatment of the group. Our analyses indicate that while the major Viburnum lineages evolved in the Eocene, the majority of extant species originated since the Miocene. Viburnum radiated first in Asia, in warm, broad-leaved evergreen (lucidophyllous) forests. Within Asia, we infer several early shifts into more tropical forests, and multiple shifts into forests that experience prolonged freezing. From Asia, we infer two early movements into the New World. These two lineages probably first occupied warm temperate forests and adapted later to spreading cold climates. One of these lineages (Porphyrotinus) occupied cloud forests and moved south through the mountains of the Neotropics. Several other movements into North America took place more recently, facilitated by prior adaptations to freezing in the Old World. We also infer four disjunctions between Asia and Europe: the Tinus lineage is the oldest and probably occupied warm forests when it spread, whereas the other three were more recent and in cold-adapted lineages. These results variously contradict published accounts, especially the view that Viburnum radiated initially in cold forests and, accordingly, maintained vessel elements with scalariform perforations. We explored how the location and biome assignments of fossils affected our inference of ancestral areas and biome states. Our results are sensitive to, but not entirely dependent upon, the inclusion of fossil biome data. It will be critical to take advantage of all available lines of evidence to decipher events in the distant past. The joint estimation approach developed here provides cautious hope even when fossil evidence is limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-85
Number of pages19
JournalSystematic Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Biogeography
  • Biome
  • Combined evidence
  • Fossil pollen
  • Phylogeny
  • Viburnum


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