Spatial phylogenetics of the native California flora

Andrew H. Thornhill, Bruce G. Baldwin, William A. Freyman, Sonia Nosratinia, Matthew M. Kling, Naia Morueta-Holme, Thomas P. Madsen, David D. Ackerly, Brent D. Mishler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: California is a world floristic biodiversity hotspot where the terms neo- and paleo-endemism were first applied. Using spatial phylogenetics, it is now possible to evaluate biodiversity from an evolutionary standpoint, including discovering significant areas of neo- and paleo-endemism, by combining spatial information from museum collections and DNA-based phylogenies. Here we used a distributional dataset of 1.39 million herbarium specimens, a phylogeny of 1083 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and 9 genes, and a spatial randomization test to identify regions of significant phylogenetic diversity, relative phylogenetic diversity, and phylogenetic endemism (PE), as well as to conduct a categorical analysis of neo- and paleo-endemism (CANAPE). Results: We found (1) extensive phylogenetic clustering in the South Coast Ranges, southern Great Valley, and deserts of California; (2) significant concentrations of short branches in the Mojave and Great Basin Deserts and the South Coast Ranges and long branches in the northern Great Valley, Sierra Nevada foothills, and the northwestern and southwestern parts of the state; (3) significant concentrations of paleo-endemism in Northwestern California, the northern Great Valley, and western Sonoran Desert, and neo-endemism in the White-Inyo Range, northern Mojave Desert, and southern Channel Islands. Multiple analyses were run to observe the effects on significance patterns of using different phylogenetic tree topologies (uncalibrated trees versus time-calibrated ultrametric trees) and using different representations of OTU ranges (herbarium specimen locations versus species distribution models). Conclusions: These analyses showed that examining the geographic distributions of branch lengths in a statistical framework adds a new dimension to California floristics that, in comparison with climatic data, helps to illuminate causes of endemism. In particular, the concentration of significant PE in more arid regions of California extends previous ideas about aridity as an evolutionary stimulus. The patterns seen are largely robust to phylogenetic uncertainty and time calibration but are sensitive to the use of occurrence data versus modeled ranges, indicating that special attention toward improving geographic distributional data should be top priority in the future for advancing understanding of spatial patterns of biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number96
JournalBMC Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 26 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Thornhill et al.


  • California flora
  • Evolution
  • Phylogenetic diversity
  • Phylogenetic endemism
  • Spatial phylogenetics
  • Species distribution modeling


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