Single origin and subsequent diversification of central Andean endemic Umbilicaria species.
We studied an Andean endemic group of species of the lichen-forming fungal genus Umbilicaria from the subalpine and low-alpine zone, with their biogeographic center in Bolivia and Peru. A number of species and varieties have been described from this element, but apparent instability in several morphological traits has made it difficult to precisely delimit taxa. Based on DNA sequences of nuclear ITS, LSU and mitochondrial SSU from extensive collections from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, we present here a molecular phylogenetic analysis of this Andean endemic element within genus Umbilicaria. All analyses (MP, ML and Bayesian) support a single origin for the element and a division into two major groups characterized by different apothecium types: the Umbilicaria dichroa group and U. calvescens group. Taxa U. krempelhuberi, U. peruviana and U. subcalvescens are nested withinn U. calvescens and are treated as conspecific with the latter species. The endemic element shares a most recent common ancestor with the Umbilicaria vellea group, which has a worldwide distribution and contains several asexually reproducing (sorediate) species. Independent reversals to sexual reproduction might explain the evolution of two types of apothecia in this monophyletic endemic lineage. A number of cosmopolitan, mostly high-alpine, species of Umbilicaria also present in the central Andes are related only remotely to the endemic element and do not exhibit speciation into endemics. Because the An-dean element dominates the Umbilicaria habitats of the low- and subalpine zones we propose that the founder colonized the Andes at a time when the mountains had not yet reached their current elevation while the high-alpine species arrived more recently.