Begonia is a mega-diverse genus comprising c. 1500 species of herbs, shrubs and epiphytes with a near pantropical distribution. Previous date estimates for the most recent common ancestor of Begonia have placed the evolution of this genus into a broad temporal context, but the issue of an absolute date estimate remains open. In this study, we attempt to estimate absolute DNA divergence dates for Begonia and, in doing so, address some of many the factors that can affect such estimates. The largest source of variance in our estimates was because of uncertainty with the calibration constraints and phylogenetic distance between these constraints and Begonia. Another large source of variance was due to the alternative methods of analysis investigated. Less variance was as a result of the alternative DNA datasets and combinations of calibration constraints assessed. Our date estimates suggest that the most recent common ancestor of Begonia could have diversified from the end of the Cretaceous to the beginning of the Neogene, probably during a period of global cooling from the mid Eocene to early Oligocene. These estimates imply that the near pantropical distribution of extant Begonia was generated by intercontinental dispersal after the ancient inferred break up of the supercontinent, Gondwana.
- autocorrelated relaxed molecular clock
- fossil constraints
- uncorrelated relaxed molecular clock