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Is Amazonia a ‘museum’ for Neotropical trees? The evolution of the Brownea clade (Detarioideae, Leguminosae)

Schley, Rowan J., de la Estrella, Manuel, Pérez-Escobar, Oscar Alejandro, Bruneau, Anne, Barraclough, Timothy, Forest, Félix, Klitgård, Bente
Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 2018 v.126 pp. 279-292
Brownea, Eocene epoch, Miocene epoch, Neotropics, biogeography, extinction, flora, genetic markers, internal transcribed spacers, models, phylogeny, pollinators, trees, Amazonia, Andes region
The flora of the Neotropics is unmatched in its diversity, however the mechanisms by which diversity has accumulated are debated and largely unclear. The Brownea clade (Leguminosae) is a characteristic component of the Neotropical flora, and the species within it are diverse in their floral morphology, attracting a wide variety of pollinators. This investigation aimed to estimate species divergence times and infer relationships within the group, in order to test whether the Brownea clade followed the ‘cradle’ or ‘museum’ model of diversification, i.e. whether species evolved rapidly over a short time period, or gradually over many millions of years. We also aimed to trace the spatio-temporal evolution of the clade by estimating ancestral biogeographical patterns in the group. We used BEAST to build a dated phylogeny of 73 Brownea clade species using three molecular markers (ITS, trnK and psbA-trnH), resulting in well-resolved phylogenetic relationships within the clade, as well as robust divergence time estimates from which we inferred diversification rates and ancestral biogeography. Our analyses revealed an Eocene origin for the group, after which the majority of diversification happened in Amazonia during the Miocene, most likely concurrent with climatic and geological changes caused by the rise of the Andes. We found no shifts in diversification rate over time, suggesting a gradual accumulation of lineages with low extinction rates. These results may help to understand why Amazonia is host to the highest diversity of tree species on Earth.