Palm tree in the outback planted by Aboriginies?

A palm tree previously thought to be endemic to arid central Australia is now believed to have been brought and planted there by the Aboriginies. Livistona mariae grows  around the Finke River in the arid outback of central Australia. It is separated by ca 1000 km from another species, Livistona rigida, which grows in two river catchment areas in northern Australia, that of the Roper River and the Nicholson-Gregory River. This separation of the two species was believed to have occurred due to contraction of an ancestral population of Livistona as the Australian arid areas expanded from the mid-Miocene (ca 15 million years ago). Now the study by Kondo et al. (2012) instead shows, based on dna and population analysis, that L. mariae is most closely related to L. rigida from the Roper River, and that their separation is fairly recent with an estimate age between 32.000 and 15.000 years ago. Because there is no evidence of historical river connections between the Roper and Finke Rivers, the authors suggest that the most likely cause of the separation of L. mariae from the Livistona population at Roper River was via long-distance dispersal through opportunistic Aboriginal immigrants to central Australia. Being one of few indigenous eatable plants it makes sense the Aboriginies would bring their fruits with them as they colonized central Australia. You can also read about this study here 🙂

So, not all natural populations are natural after all? 😉