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Recent origin of Neotropical orchids in the world's richest plant biodiversity hotspot

By Oscar Alejandro Pérez-Escobar, Guillaume Chomicki, Fabien L Condamine, Adam P. Karremans, Diego Bogarín, Nicholas J. Matzke, Daniele Silvestro, Alexandre Antonelli

Posted 06 Feb 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/106302 (published DOI: 10.1111/nph.14629)

The Andean mountains of South America are the most species-rich biodiversity hotspot worldwide with about 15% of the world's plant species, in only 1% of the world's land surface. Orchids are a key element of the Andean flora, and one of the most prominent components of the Neotropical epiphyte diversity, yet very little is known about their origin and diversification. We address this knowledge gap by inferring the biogeographical history and evolutionary dynamics of the two largest Neotropical orchid groups (Cymbidieae and Pleurothallidinae), using two unparalleled, densely-sampled orchid phylogenies (including 400+ newly generated DNA sequences), comparative phylogenetic methods, geological and biological datasets. We find that the majority of Andean orchid lineages only originated in the last 15 million years. Most Andean lineages are derived from lowland Amazonian ancestors, with additional contributions from Central America and the Antilles. Species diversification is correlated with Andean orogeny, and multiple migrations and re-colonizations across the Andes indicate that mountains do not constrain orchid dispersal over long timescales. Our study sheds new light on the timing and geography of a major Neotropical radiation, and suggests that mountain uplift promotes species diversification across all elevational zones.

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