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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Evolution of a hotspot genus: geographic variation in speciation and extinction rates in Banksia (Proteaceae)

Marcel Cardillo1* and Renae Pratt12

Author Affiliations

1 Macroevolution and Macroecology Group, Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia

2 Current address: Centre for Biodiversity Analysis, Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:155  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-155

Published: 19 August 2013



Hotspots of angiosperm species richness and endemism in Mediterranean-climate regions are among the most striking, but least well-understood, geographic patterns of biodiversity. Recent studies have emphasized the importance of rapid diversification within hotspots, compared to non-hotspot regions, as a major contributor to these patterns. We constructed the first near-complete phylogeny of Banksia (Proteaceae) to test whether diversification rates have differed between lineages confined to the southwest Australian hotspot and those found throughout southern, eastern and northern Australia. We then tested for variation in diversification rates among the bioclimatic zones within the southwest hotspot itself.


Although Banksia species richness in the southwest is ten times that of the rest of the continent, we find little evidence for more rapid diversification in the southwest, although this result is inconclusive. However, we find firmer support for substantial rate variation within the southwest hotspot, with more rapid diversification in the semi-arid heaths and shrublands, compared to the high-rainfall forests. Most of the Banksia diversity of the southwest appears to be generated in the heaths and shrublands, with a high migration rate out of this zone boosting diversity of the adjacent forest zone.


The geographic pattern of diversification in Banksia appears more complex than can be characterized by a simple hotspot vs. non-hotspot comparison, but in general, these findings contrast with the view that the high diversity of Mediterranean hotspots is underpinned by rapid radiations. Steady accumulation of species at unexceptional rates, but over long periods of time, may also have contributed substantially to the great botanical richness of these regions.

Angiosperm diversity; Diversification; Mediterranean hotspots; Southwest Australia; Species richness