Systematics Association Logo

the 2012
Sir Julian Huxley Lecture



Any views expressed by speakers are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Systematics Association

New events

Please contact us if have an event which you wish to promote. If we feel it is appropriate to the Association then it will be listed here. Send details to

Funding for events

If you would like to organise your own conference, with Systematics Association funding, you need to complete a Conference Proposal form and submit it to

The evolutionary history of the danthonioid grasses: dispersal, niche evolution and radiation in the Southern Hemisphere

Wednesday 10 October 2012, Linnean Society, London

Peter Linder Prof. Dr. H. Peter Linder
Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Podcast available:


Podcast provided by Backdoor Broadcasting Company (website)




The Danthonioideae (Poaceae) include some 300 species. Although these temperate, C3 grasses are present on all continents, the greatest phylogenetic, taxonomic and ecological diversity is found on the four austral landmasses: southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South America. Here they are often ecologically (and economically) important, and include charismatic grasses like the Wallaby-grasses of Australia, the Snow-grasses of New Zealand and Pampas-grasses of South America. Our reconstruction of the biogeographical history indicates an African origin in the early Oligocene, with repeated dispersal across the southern oceans from the middle Miocene. Dispersal rate is largely controlled by ocean width, and disperal direction from occupied to empty terrain. The pattern of diversification on each continent is different, possibly shaped by the local palaeoclimates resulting from the interaction of local topography and global climate changes during the Pleistocene. The niche evolution in the clade is still poorly understood. Cold tolerance evolved early in this group of temperate grasses, and in many instances appears to be wider than climate ranges currently found. These "truncated niches" are possibly relicts of the colder ice-age climates, suggesting adaptation rather than migration as response to the global climate shifts. Although the evolutionary history of the group, as a typical austral clade, is gradually being elucidated, we still do not know the processes underlying the frequent long distance dispersal events, the speciation processes that generated the rich taxonomic diversity, or the selective advantages of the different leaf anatomies

Follow us on twitter: @SystAssn
Registered Charity Number 270429  Last updated: 10 January 2013
Webmaster: Barbara Mackinder (click here to give feedback) RSS feed