Out of Borneo: Biogeography, phylogeny and divergence date estimates of Artocarpus (Moraceae)

Evelyn W. Williams, Elliot M. Gardner, Robert Harris, Arunrat Chaveerach, Joan T. Pereira, Nyree J.C. Zerega

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background and Aims The breadfruit genus (Artocarpus, Moraceae) includes valuable underutilized fruit tree crops with a centre of diversity in Southeast Asia. It belongs to the monophyletic tribe Artocarpeae, whose only other members include two small neotropical genera. This study aimed to reconstruct the phylogeny, estimate divergence dates and infer ancestral ranges of Artocarpeae, especially Artocarpus, to better understand spatial and temporal evolutionary relationships and dispersal patterns in a geologically complex region. Methods To investigate the phylogeny and biogeography of Artocarpeae, this study used Bayesian and maximum likelihood approaches to analyze DNA sequences from six plastid and two nuclear regions from 75% of Artocarpus species, both neotropical Artocarpeae genera, and members of all other Moraceae tribes. Six fossil-based calibrations within the Moraceae family were used to infer divergence times. Ancestral areas and estimated dispersal events were also inferred. Key Results Artocarpeae, Artocarpus and four monophyletic Artocarpus subgenera were well supported. A late Cretaceous origin of the Artocarpeae tribe in the Americas is inferred, followed by Eocene radiation of Artocarpus in Asia, with the greatest diversification occurring during the Miocene. Borneo is reconstructed as the ancestral range of Artocarpus, with dozens of independent in situ diversification events inferred there, as well as dispersal events to other regions of Southeast Asia. Dispersal pathways of Artocarpus and its ancestors are proposed. Conclusions Borneo was central in the diversification of the genus Artocarpus and probably served as the centre from which species dispersed and diversified in several directions. The greatest amount of diversification is inferred to have occurred during the Miocene, when sea levels fluctuated and land connections frequently existed between Borneo, mainland Asia, Sumatra and Java. Many species found in these areas have extant overlapping ranges, suggesting that sympatric speciation may have occurred. By contrast, Artocarpus diversity east of Borneo (where many of the islands have no historical connections to the landmasses of the Sunda and Sahul shelves) is unique and probably the product of over water long-distance dispersal events and subsequent diversification in allopatry. This work represents the most comprehensive Artocarpus phylogeny and biogeography study to date and supports Borneo as an evolutionary biodiversity hotspot.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-627
Number of pages17
JournalAnnals of botany
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017


  • Ancestral area reconstruction
  • Artocarpeae
  • Artocarpus
  • Borneo
  • Dispersal
  • Divergence date estimates
  • Historical biogeography
  • Moraceae
  • Phylogeny
  • Southeast Asia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science

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