Out-of-Tibet: the spatio-temporal evolution of Gentiana (Gentianaceae)

Adrien Favre*, Ingo Michalak, Chih Hsiung Chen, Jenn Che Wang, James S. Pringle, Sabine Matuszak, Hang Sun, Yong Ming Yuan, Lena Struwe, Alexandra N. Muellner-Riehl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: We investigated the historical biogeography and diversification of Gentiana L. (Gentianaceae). Our study depicts the origin and dispersal routes of this alpine genus, and the role of the uplift of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau (QTP) and past climate changes as triggers for its diversification. Location: Tibeto-Himalayan region and world-wide mountain habitats. Methods: Our sampling represents more than 50% of the extant Gentiana species, including all sections across their entire geographical ranges. We investigated the evolutionary history of Gentiana using phylogenetic reconstructions (maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference) of ITS, atpB–rbcL and trnL–trnF sequences, as well as molecular dating with beast. We tested two approaches of ancestral area reconstructions (DEC, DIVA) in BioGeoBEARS and investigated diversification rates using BAMM. Results: The common ancestor of Gentiana and subtribe Gentianinae lived in the QTP region at around 34 (25–45) million years ago (Ma), and 40 (29–52) Ma respectively. From the surroundings of the QTP, Gentiana lineages dispersed to eastern China, Taiwan, Europe, North and South America, Australia and New Guinea, from mid-Miocene onward (c. 15 Ma–present), with only one older dispersal event to Europe (c. 37–21 Ma). Diversification rates gradually increased over time, and two switches of diversification rates were identified in Gentianinae (c. 7 Ma, simultaneously in the Pneumonanthe/Cruciata lineage and in Tripterospermum). Main conclusions: Gentiana existed in the QTP region throughout most of its uplift history following the India-Asia collision. This region acted as the primary source area for dispersals to many areas of the world. Because steady increase in diversification rates coincides with the extension of the QTP, we argue that the museum theory rather than the explosive radiation theory prevails for gentians in this region, although rare shifts of diversification rates are associated with niche shifts across the alpine/subalpine ecotone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1967-1978
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Oct 1


  • Alpine flora
  • Gentiana
  • Qinghai–Tibet Plateau
  • biogeography
  • diversification rates
  • molecular dating
  • molecular phylogeny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Out-of-Tibet: the spatio-temporal evolution of Gentiana (Gentianaceae)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this