Post-glacial dispersal, rather than in situ glacial survival, best explains the disjunct distribution of the Lusitanian plant species Daboecia cantabrica (Ericaceae)

Gemma Beatty, Jim Provan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (SciVal)


Aim The distribution of the Lusitanian flora and fauna, species which are found only in southern and western Ireland and in northern Spain and Portugal but which are absent from intervening countries, represents one of the classic conundrums of biogeography. The aim of the present study was to determine whether the distribution of the Lusitanian plant species Daboecia cantabrica was due to persistence in separate Irish and Iberian refugia, or has resulted from post-glacial recolonization followed by subsequent extinction of intervening populations. Location Northern Spain and Co. Galway, western Ireland. Methods Palaeodistribution modelling using Maxent was employed to identify putative refugial areas for D. cantabrica at the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Phylogeographical analysis of samples from 64 locations in Ireland and Spain were carried out using a chloroplast marker (atpBrbcL), the nuclear ITS region, and an anonymous nuclear single-copy locus. Results The palaeodistribution model indicated areas with a high probability of survival for D. cantabrica at the LGM off the western coast of Galicia in Spain, and in the Bay of Biscay. Spanish populations exhibited substantially higher genetic diversity than Irish populations at all three loci, as well as geographical structuring of haplotypes within Spain consistent with divergence in separate refugia. Spanish populations also exhibited far more endemic haplotypes. Divergence time between Irish and Spanish populations associated with the putative Biscay refugium was estimated as 3.33332 ka. Main conclusions Our data indicate persistence by D. cantabrica throughout the LGM in two separate southern refugia: one in western Galicia and one in the area off the coast of western France which now lies in the Bay of Biscay. Spain was recolonized from both refugia, whilst Ireland was most likely recolonized from the Biscay refugium. On the balance of evidence across the three marker types and the palaeodistribution modelling, our findings do not support the idea of in situ survival of D. cantabrica in Ireland, contrary to earlier suggestions. The fact that we cannot conclusively rule out the existence of a small, more northerly refugium, however, highlights the need for further analysis of Lusitanian plant species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-344
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • Daboecia cantabrica
  • Devensian glaciations
  • Ireland
  • Last Glacial Maximum
  • Lusitanian flora
  • palaeodistribution modelling
  • phylogeography
  • Spain
  • St Daboec's heath


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