Climate change and speciation in neotropical seasonally dry forest plants

R. Toby Pennington, Matt Lavin, Darién E. Prado, Colin A. Pendry and Susan K. Pell

in Tropical Forests and Global Atmospheric Change

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780198567066
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780191717888 | DOI:
 Climate change and speciation in neotropical seasonally dry forest plants

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Historical climate changes have had a major effect on the distribution and evolution of plant species in the neotropics. What is more controversial is whether relatively recent and rapid Pleistocene climatic changes have driven speciation, or whether neotropical species diversity is more ancient. This question is addressed using evolutionary rates analysis of nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacers (ITS) sequence data on diverse taxa occupying neotropical seasonally dry forests: Ruprechtia (Polygonaceae), robinioid legumes (Leguminosae), Chaetocalyx and Nissolia (Leguminosae), and Loxopterygium (Anacardiaceae). Species diversifications in these taxa occurred both during and before the Pleistocene in Central America, but were primarily pre-Pleistocene in South America. This indicates plausibility both for models that predict tropical species diversity to be recent and that invoke a role for Pleistocene climatic change, and those that consider it ancient and implicate geological factors such as the Andean orogeny and the closure of the Panama Isthmus.

Keywords: climate change; speciation; neotropical plants; seasonally dry tropical forests; evolutionary rates analysis

Chapter.  6284 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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