The biogeographic pattern of chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) haplotypes in Eucalyptus on the island of Tasmania is consistent with reticulate evolution, involving at least 12 Tasmanian species from the subgenus Symphyomyrtus. Intraspecific cpDNA polymorphism in 14 of 17 species is coupled with extensive sharing of identical haplotypes across populations of different species in the same geographic area. Haplotype diversity is lowest in central regions of Tasmania formerly occupied by alpine vegetation during glacial intervals and in northern regions that were periodically linked to continental Australia by land bridges. The observed distribution of several cpDNA haplotypes unique to Tasmania coincides with modeled locations of glacial refugia in coastal areas of Tasmania and shows the power of cpDNA in unraveling the complex history of past distributions of Eucalyptus. The results suggest that the model of evolution of the eucalypts should be reassessed to allow for the anastomosing effects of interspecific hybridization and introgression.
Corresponding Editor: O. Savolainen