Many bryophyte species have distributions that span multiple continents. The hypotheses historically advanced to explain such distributions rely on either long-distance spore dispersal or slow rates of morphological evolution following ancient continental vicariance events. We use phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequence variation at three chloroplast loci (atpB-rbcL spacer, rps4 gene, and trnL intron and 3′ spacer) to examine these two hypotheses in the trans-Antarctic moss Pyrrhobryum mnioides. We find: (1) reciprocal monophyly of Australasian and South American populations, indicating a lack of intercontinental dispersal; (2) shared haplotypes between Australia and New Zealand, suggesting recent or ongoing migration across the Tasman Sea; and (3) reciprocal monophyly among Patagonian and neotropical populations, suggesting no recent migration along the Andes. These results corroborate experimental work suggesting that spore features may be critical determinants of species range. We use the mid-Miocene development of the Atacama Desert, 14 million years ago, to calibrate a molecular clock for the tree. The age of the trans-Antarctic disjunction is estimated to be 80 million years ago, consistent with Gondwanan vicariance, making it among the most ancient documented cases of cryptic speciation. These data are in accord with niche conservatism, but whether the morphological stasis is a product of stabilizing selection or phylogenetic constraint is unknown.
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Vol. 57 • No. 2