Diversification and biogeography of Juniperus (Cupressaceae): variable diversification rates and multiple intercontinental dispersals

Kangshan Mao, Gang Hao, Jianquan Liu, Robert P. Adams, Richard I. Milne

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


P>A central aim of biogeography is to understand when and how modern patterns of species diversity and distribution developed. Many plant groups have disjunct distributions within the Northern Hemisphere, but among these very few have been studied that prefer warm semi-arid habitats.

Here we examine the biogeography and diversification history of Juniperus, which occurs in semi-arid habitats through much of the Northern Hemisphere. A phylogeny was generated based on > 10 000 bp of cpDNA for 51 Juniperus species plus many outgroups. Phylogenies based on fewer species were also constructed based on nuclear internal transcribed spacer (nrITS) and combined nrITS/cpDNA data sets to check for congruence. Divergence time-scales and ancestral distributions were further inferred.

Both long dispersal and migration across land bridges probably contributed to the modern range of Juniperus, while long-term climatic changes and the uplift of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau probably drove its diversification. Diversification apparently slowed down during climate-stable period of the Oligocene, and then speeded up from the Miocene onwards.

Juniperus probably originated in Eurasia, and was a part of the south Eurasian Tethyan vegetation of the Eocene to Oligocene. It reached America once at this time, once in the Miocene and once more recently.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-272
Number of pages19
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • biogeography
  • disjunctions
  • Juniperus
  • Madrean-Tethyan vegetation
  • tertiary relict floras


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