Biodiversity Science ›› 2017, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (8): 807-815.doi: 10.17520/biods.2016360

• Original Papers: Plant Diversity • Previous Article     Next Article

Gesneriaceae on Hainan Island: distribution patterns and phylogenetic relationships

Shaojun Ling, Qianwan Meng, Liang Tang, Mingxun Ren*()   

  1. Research Center for Terrestrial Biodiversity of the South China Sea, Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Forestry, Hainan University, Haikou 570228
  • Received:2016-12-21 Accepted:2017-07-01 Online:2017-08-31
  • Ren Mingxun

Hainan Island offers an excellent opportunity to study biodiversity and biogeography as it is the biggest tropical island in China while its flora evolution and biogeographic patterns have remained largely unexplored. Gesneriaceae is a typical tropical plant family, showing diversification centers in southwestern China and the Malay Archipelago. Hainan Island is located between these two ‘hotspots’. In this study, area-adjusted species density and endemic indices of Gesneriaceae on Hainan Island were compared with nearby regions including Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou, and Vietnam. The detailed distribution patterns of Gesneriaceae on Hainan Island were also explored by comparing species diversity and endemic proportions among different mountains and altitudes. We also used nuclear ITS1/2 and chloroplast trnL-F sequences to construct a phylogenetic tree of Gesneriaceae on Hainan Island to study dispersal histories and the speciation time of Hainan-endemic species. Our results showed that, although Hainan Island has only 24 Gesneriaceae species, of which eight species and two genera are endemic, it also was characterized by a very high area-adjusted species diversity and endemic index due to its small geographical area. Hainan Gesneriaceae were distributed mainly in high mountainous regions such as Mt. Wuzhi, Mt. Jianfeng, and Mt. Yingge and showed the highest species diversity at both 400-1,000 m and >1,400 m a.s.l. The molecular data showed that two endemic monotypic genera, i.e. Metapetrocosme and Cathayanthe, evolved at about 12 Ma, which may have been triggered by the monsoon climate (formed at about 28 Ma). Hainan contains the most basal taxa of Asian Gesneriaceae and shared these with Southeast Asia, suggesting Hainan Gesneriaceae largely originated from Southeast Asia, instead of the Chinese mainland. However, the great similarity of species composition between Hainan Island and the geographically-closest province, i.e. Guangdong, proves that Hainan flora experienced frequent species exchanges with the Chinese mainland recently, likely during the late Tertiary (~3 Ma) when the island was connected with the Chinese mainland.

Key words: species diversity, endemic species, geographic distribution, species dispersal, molecular phylogeny

Table 1

Comparison of species diversity of Gesneriaceae between Hainan Island with its nearby regions"

(×104 km2)
range (m)
No. of
No. of endemic
Jaccard index of similarity between the region and Hainan Island
海南岛 Hainan Island 3.54 1,867 24 8 18.985 0.396
云南 Yunnan 39.10 6,664 236 106 64.373 0.222 0.040
广西 Guangxi 23.67 2,141 211 120 66.683 0.417 0.044
贵州 Guizhou 17.62 2,793 97 28 33.809 0.141 0.052
广东 Guangdong 17.98 1,882 60 20 20.767 0.173 0.167
越南 Vietnam 32.90 3,143 60 21 17.175 0.154 0.050

Table 2

DNA fragments and the primers used for phylogenetic studies of Gesneriaceae species"

DNA片段 DNA fragment 引物序列 Sequence 片段大小 Fragment size 参考文献 Reference
核基因片段 ITS1/2 ITS1: TCCGTAGGTGAACCTGCGG 851 bp White et al, 1990
叶绿体基因片段 trnL-F trnL: CGAAATCGGTAGACGCTAGG 859 bp Wang et al, 2010

Fig. 1

Topography of Hainan Island and the mountains studied"

Fig. 2

Altitudinal distribution of species diversity of Gesneriaceae on Hainan Island. □ All species, ■ Hainan-endemic species."

Fig. 3

Phylogenetic tree of Hainan Gesneriaceae based on ITS and trnL-F. The insert map shows the geographical distribution of Asian Gesneriaceae. Note that Hainan Island locates at the center of the distribution range. The values above branches represent Bayesian posterior probabilities."

Fig. 4

Transitions of floral symmetry, habitat type and distribution altitude of Gesneriaceae on Hainan Isand. See Fig. 3 for the indication of branch color."

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