Distinguishing the historical effects of gene migration and vicariance on contemporary genetic structure is problematic without testable biogeographic hypotheses based on preexisting geological and environmental evidence. The availability of such hypotheses for North America's Sonoran Desert has contributed to our understanding of the effect of historical vicariance and dispersal events on the diversification of this region's vertebrate biota but have not yet been applied to its flora. In this paper we describe a detailed allozyme analysis of the population genetic structure and phylogeography of the Sonoran Desert columnar cactus, Lophocereus schottii (senita). Inferred phylogroup distributions reflect two historical vicariance events: (1) a middle Pliocene northward transgression of the Sea of Cortéz that is reflected in well-supported Baja California peninsular and continental phylogroups but not in current taxonomic treatments of the species; and (2) a late Pliocene transpeninsular seaway across southern Baja that is reflected in tentative support for peninsular and southern Cape Region phylogroups corresponding to taxonomic varieties L. schottii var. schottii and L. schottii var. australis, respectively. A middle Pleistocene midpeninsular seaway hypothesized to explain congruent phylogroup distributions in several vertebrate taxa is not reflected in L. s. var. schottii, nor is the distinction of a third variety, L. s. var. tenuis, from continental populations of L. s. var. schottii. Linear regression of pairwise estimates of interpopulation differentiation (M̂ and FST/[1 − FST]) on interpopulation geographic distance revealed significant evidence of isolation by distance within peninsular and continental phylogroups but not between them, consistent with historical vicariance between but not within these regions. We also found significant evidence of isolation by distance between putative L. s. var. schottii and L. s. var. australis phylogroups, suggesting that reproductive isolation between peninsular and Cape Region forms is incomplete. Within peninsular, but not continental, phylogroups, northward range expansion from southern Pleistocene refugia is reflected in significant declines in genetic variation with increasing latitude and in an area phenogram in which populations are progressively nested from south (ancestral) to north (descendant) along the Baja peninsula. Although the geographic concordance of phylogenetic topologies suggests that ancient vicariance events, and not dispersal, have primarily influenced the biogeographic distributions of Baja's vertebrate biota, the phylogeographic structure of L. schottii suggests that Sonoran Desert plant species may exhibit genetic signatures of postglacial range expansion and gene flow as well as vicariance.
Vol. 56 • No. 11
Vol. 56 • No. 11