Data from four DNA regions (rbcL, matK, 26S rDNA, and ITS) as well as extant and fossil morphology were used to reconstruct the phylogeny and biogeographic history of an intercontinentally disjunct plant group, the cornelian cherries of Cornus (dogwoods). The study tests previous hypotheses on the relative roles of two Tertiary land bridges, the North Atlantic land bridge (NALB) and the Bering land bridge (BLB), in plant migration across continents. Three approaches, the Bayesian, nonparametric rate smoothing (NPRS), and penalized likelihood (PL) methods, were employed to estimate the times of geographic isolations of species. Dispersal and vicariance analysis (DIVA) was performed to infer the sequence and directionality of biogeographic pathways. Results of phylogenetic analyses suggest that among the six living species, C. sessilis from western North America represents the oldest lineage, followed by C. volkensii from Africa. The four Eurasian species form a clade consisting of two sister pairs, C. mas– C. officinalis and C. chinensis–C. eydeana. Results of DIVA and data from fossils and molecular dating indicate that the cornelian cherry subgroup arose in Europe as early as the Paleocene. Fossils confirm that the group was present in North America by the late Paleocene, consistent with the DIVA predictions that, by the end of the Eocene, it had diversified into several species and expanded its distribution to North America via the NALB and to Africa via the last direct connection between Eurasia and Africa prior to the Miocene, or via long-distance dispersal. The cornelian cherries in eastern Asia appear to be derived from two independent dispersal events from Europe. These events are inferred to have occurred during the Oligocene and Miocene. This study supports the hypothesis that the NALB served as an important land bridge connecting the North American and European floras, as well as connecting American and African floras via Europe during the early Tertiary.
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Vol. 59 • No. 8