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The phylogeny of Syntrichia: An ecologically diverse clade of mosses with an origin in South America

Cite this dataset

Jauregui-Lazo, Javier; Brinda, John C.; Consortium, GoFlag; Mishler, Brent D. (2022). The phylogeny of Syntrichia: An ecologically diverse clade of mosses with an origin in South America [Dataset]. Dryad.


Premise: To address the biodiversity crisis, we need to understand the evolution of all organisms and how they fill geographic and ecological space. Syntrichia is one of the most diverse and dominant genera of mosses, ranging from alpine habitats to desert biocrusts, yet its evolutionary history remains unclear.   

Results: We found 10 major well-resolved subclades of Syntrichia that possess geographical or morphological coherence, in some cases representing previously accepted genera. We infer that the extant species diversity of Syntrichia likely originated in South America in the early Eocene (56.5–43.8 mya), subsequently expanded its distribution to the neotropics, and finally dispersed to the northern hemisphere. There, the clade experienced a recent diversification (15–12 mya) into a broad set of ecological niches (e.g., the S. caninervis and S. ruralis complexes). The transition from terricolous to either saxicolous or epiphytic habitats occurred more than once and was associated with changes in water-related traits.

Conclusions: Our study provides a framework for understanding the evolutionary history of Syntrichia through the combination of morphological and molecular characters, revealing that migration events that shaped the current distribution of the clade have implications for morphological character evolution in relation to niche diversity.


We present a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of Syntrichia, based on both molecular and morphological data, with most of the named species and closest outgroups represented. In addition, we provide ancestral-state reconstructions of water-related traits and a global biogeographic analysis.


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB 1541506

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB 1638956