Phylogeographical analysis of two cold-tolerant plants with disjunct Lusitanian distributions does not support in situ survival during the last glaciation

Gemma Beatty, Jim Provan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


AimWe used a combination of modelling and genetic approaches to investigate whether Pinguicula grandiflora and Saxifraga spathularis, two species that exhibit disjunct Lusitanian distributions, may have persisted through the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, c. 21 ka) in separate northern and southern refugia.

LocationNorthern and eastern Spain and south-western Ireland.

MethodsPalaeodistribution modelling using Maxent was used to identify putative refugial areas for both species at the LGM, as well as to estimate their distributions during the Last Interglacial (LIG, c. 120 ka). Phylogeographical analysis of samples from across both species' ranges was carried out using one chloroplast and three nuclear loci for each species.

ResultsThe palaeodistribution models identified very limited suitable habitat for either species during the LIG, followed by expansion during the LGM. A single, large refugium across northern Spain and southern France was postulated for P. grandiflora. Two suitable regions were identified for S. spathularis: one in northern Spain, corresponding to the eastern part of the species' present-day distribution in Iberia, and the other on the continental shelf off the west coast of Brittany, south of the limit of the British-Irish ice sheet. Phylogeographical analyses indicated extremely reduced levels of genetic diversity in Irish populations of P. grandiflora relative to those in mainland Europe, but comparable levels of diversity between Irish and mainland European populations of S. spathularis, including the occurrence of private hapotypes in both regions.

Main conclusionsModelling and phylogeographical analyses indicate that P. grandiflora persisted through the LGM in a southern refugium, and achieved its current Irish distribution via northward dispersal after the retreat of the ice sheets. Although the results for S. spathularis are more equivocal, a similar recolonization scenario also seems the most likely explanation for the species' current distribution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2185-2193
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Large-flowered butterwort
  • Last Glacial Maximum
  • Lusitanian flora
  • palaeodistribution modelling
  • Pinguicula grandiflora
  • phylogeography
  • refugia
  • Saxifraga spathularis
  • St
  • Patrick's cabbage


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