J Syst Evol ›› 2000, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (2): 148-166.

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The phytogeographical studies of Thermopsis (Fabaceae)

SA Ren, CHEN Chia-Jui, LI Pei-Chun   

  • Published:2000-03-10

Abstract: The present article is the first comprehensive treatment of phytogeography of Thermopsis (Fabaceae) in the world. Thermopsis is one of the few genera within Fabaceae with the distribution pattern of the East Asia-North American disjunction. The distribution patterns of 5 recognized sections (including a new one) covering 21 species in Thermopsis are analyzed, and the results show four centres of frequency of the genus: the Eastern Asiatic Region (9 spp. / 3 sects., including 4 endemic species), the Irano-Turanian Region (7 spp./3 sects., including 3 endemic species), the Rocky Mountain Region (7 spp./2 sects., all endemic), and the Atlantic North American Region (3 spp. / 1 sect., all endemic). In the light of the fact that most species and sections, a number of phylogenetic series of the genus, and the most primitive sections and most advanced sections in Thermopsis occur in the East Asia, the Eastern Asiatic Region might be the centre of diversity of the genus. As the Irano-Turanian Region and the Rocky Mountain Region were just second to that of Eastern Asiatic Region in number of sections and species, and many polyploids appeared in these regions, they were considered as the secondary centres of distribution and speciation of the genus. The speciation looks to be frequent and complex in these regions, and many new taxa have been described from there while many new reduced or incorporated taxa have happened over there. However, recent molecular data has shown that two reduced taxa of Thermopsis are distinct in these regions. Based on the modern distribution patterns and evolutionary trends in morphological characters of the genus, and available fossil record of the genus and the historical geology, we speculate that Thermopsis had already existed on Eurasia and North America before the Late Miocene, and probably originated from an ancestral form of Sophora-like taxa with lupine alkaloids somewhere in the Laurasia in the Early Tertiary or Late Cretaceous. After the separation of the two continents, species on different continents developed distinctly under influences of different evolutionary factors. In Asia, the late Tertiary orogeny, disappearing of the Tethys and aridity and freezing caused by the Quaternary glaciation were the main forces to promote the speciation and evolutionary processes, whereas in North America it was the Quaternary glaciation and the orogeny of partial area to promote evolution of the genus. According to the evolutionary trends in Thermopsis and the distribution pattern of the primitive taxa, Sino-Japanese Subregion of Eastern Asiatic Region may be considered asthe centre of primitive forms of Thermopsis.

Key words: Thermopsis, Geographical distribution, Origin, Evolution