Skip to main content

The evolution and biogeographic history of epiphytic thalloid liverworts

Cite this dataset

Bechteler, Julia et al. (2021). The evolution and biogeographic history of epiphytic thalloid liverworts [Dataset]. Dryad.


Among liverworts, the epiphytic lifestyle is not only present in leafy forms but also in thalloid liverworts, which so far has received little attention in evolutionary and biogeographical studies. Metzgeria, with about 107 species worldwide, is the only genus of thalloid liverworts that comprises true epiphytes. In the present study, we provide the first comprehensive molecular phylogeny, including estimated divergence times and ancestral ranges of this genus. Analyses are based on a plastid marker dataset representing about half of the Metzgeria species diversity. We could show for the first time with molecular data that Austrometzgeria is indeed a member of Metzgeria and that the morpho-species M. furcata and M. leptoneura are not monophyletic, but rather represent geographically well-defined clades. Our analyses indicated that Metzgeria started to diversify in the Cretaceous in an area encompassing today’s South America and Australasia. Thus, Metzgeria is one of the few known epiphytic liverwort genera whose biogeographic history was directly shaped by Gondwana vicariance. Subsequent dispersal events in the Cenozoic resulted in the colonization of Asia, Africa, North America, and Europe and led to today’s worldwide distribution of its species. We also provide the first reliable stem age estimate for Metzgeria due to the inclusion of its sister taxon Vandiemenia in our dating analyses. Additionally, this stem age estimate of about 240 million years most likely marks the starting point of a transition from a terrestrial to an epiphytic lifestyle in thalloid liverworts of the Metzgeriales. We assume that the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution played a key role in the evolution of epiphytic thalloid liverworts similar to that known for leafy liverworts. 


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Award: LE 1826/4-1

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Award: QU 153/8-1