The cosmopolitan moss Bryum argenteum in Antarctica: recent colonisation or in situ survival?
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- Pisa, S., Biersma, E.M., Convey, P. et al. Polar Biol (2014) 37: 1469. doi:10.1007/s00300-014-1537-3
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Since the onset of glaciation following the Oligocene (30–28 Ma), the prevalence of increasingly cold conditions has shaped the evolution of the Antarctic biota. Two hypotheses, postglacial recruitment from extra-regional locations and in situ persistence, have been proposed to explain the biogeography of the contemporary species-poor terrestrial Antarctic biota. Bryophytes, which form a major group of the Antarctic flora, exhibit a strong, inherent ability to survive cold conditions but also have high long-distance dispersal capacities, which are compatible with both hypotheses. Here, we test these hypotheses by means of population genetic and phylogeographic analyses of the cosmopolitan moss Bryum argenteum. We find evidence for at least three independent colonisation events of the species in Antarctica. Ancestral area reconstruction coupled with molecular dating suggests colonisation times of the different Antarctic clades ranging from four million years for the oldest lineage to half a million years for the youngest lineage. This suggests multiple colonisation events of Antarctica by this species during several glacial cycles within the Pleistocene, Pliocene and possibly late Miocene. This is the first study to demonstrate in situ persistence of bryophytes in Antarctica throughout previous glaciations.