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Origins of native vascular plants of Antarctica: comments from a historical phytogeography viewpoint
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The article provides an overview of the problem of origins of the only native vascular plants of Antarctica, Deschampsia antartica (Poaceae) and Colobanthus quitensis (Caryophyllaceae), from the viewpoint of modern historical phytogeography and related fields of science. Some authors suggested the Tertiary relict status of these plants in Antarctica, while others favor their recent Holocene immigration. Direct data (fossil or molecular genetic) for solving this controversy are still lacking. However, there is no convincing evidence supporting the Tertiary relict status of these plants in Antarctica. Most probably D. antarctica and C. quitensis migrated to Antarctica in the Holocene or Late Pleistocene (last interglacial?) through bird-aided long-distance dispersal. It should be critically tested by (1) appropriate methods of molecular phylogeography, (2) molecular clock methods, if feasible, (3) direct paleobotanical studies, (4) paleoclimatic reconstructions, and (5) comparison with cases of taxa with similar distribution/dispersal patterns. The problem of the origin of Antarctic vascular plants is a perfect model for integration of modern methods of molecular phylogeography and phylogenetics, population biology, paleobiology and paleogeography for solving a long-standing enigma of historical plant geography and evolution.
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