Evolutionary response of Caragana (Fabaceae) to Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau uplift and Asian interior aridification
Caragana is endemic to temperate Asia, with most species distributed on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau (QTP) and in Northwestern China. Consequently its biogeography should be hypothesized to have been affected by QTP uplift. To examine the biogeography of Caragana in relation to QTP uplift and consequent interior aridification, we conducted molecular dating analyses based on three genes (ITS, cpDNA trnS-trnG and rbcL). Results from relaxed Bayesian BEAST, relaxed Bayesian Multidivtime, and PL (penalized likelihood) indicate that QTP uplift, especially the onset of Himalayan motion at 21–17 Ma, triggered the origin of Caragana (with estimated ages 16–14 Ma). The subsequent QTP rapid uplift at 8 Ma is inferred to have driven the evolution and diversification of the three major clades of Caragana: section Caragana (northern China and the Junggar–Altai–Sayan region), section Frutescentes (Central Asia), and sections Bracteolatae and Jubatae, centered in the QTP. A rapid and active speciation process occurring in the QTP intense uplift at 3.4–1.8 Ma, is indicated by the chronogram.