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      An engine for global plant diversity: highest evolutionary turnover and emigration in the American tropics

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          Understanding the processes that have generated the latitudinal biodiversity gradient and the continental differences in tropical biodiversity remains a major goal of evolutionary biology. Here we estimate the timing and direction of range shifts of extant flowering plants (angiosperms) between tropical and non-tropical zones, and into and out of the major tropical regions of the world. We then calculate rates of speciation and extinction taking into account incomplete taxonomic sampling. We use a recently published fossil calibrated phylogeny and apply novel bioinformatic tools to code species into user-defined polygons. We reconstruct biogeographic history using stochastic character mapping to compute relative numbers of range shifts in proportion to the number of available lineages through time. Our results, based on the analysis of c. 22,600 species and c. 20 million geo-referenced occurrence records, show no significant differences between the speciation and extinction of tropical and non-tropical angiosperms. This suggests that at least in plants, the latitudinal biodiversity gradient primarily derives from other factors than differential rates of diversification. In contrast, the outstanding species richness found today in the American tropics (the Neotropics), as compared to tropical Africa and tropical Asia, is associated with significantly higher speciation and extinction rates. This suggests an exceedingly rapid evolutionary turnover, i.e., Neotropical species being formed and replaced by one another at unparalleled rates. In addition, tropical America stands out from other continents by having “pumped out” more species than it received through most of the last 66 million years. These results imply that the Neotropics have acted as an engine for global plant diversity.

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                Author and article information

                Front Genet
                Front Genet
                Front. Genet.
                Frontiers in Genetics
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                08 April 2015
                : 6
                1Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg Göteborg, Sweden
                2Gothenburg Botanical Garden Göteborg, Sweden
                3Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne Lausanne, Switzerland
                4Laboratoire de Paléobiogéologie, Paléobotanique, Paléopalynologie, Département de Géologie, Université de Liège Liège, Belgium
                5Laboratório de Biología Molecular (CINBIN), Department of Biology, Universidad Industrial de Santander Bucaramanga, Colombia
                Author notes

                Edited by: James Edward Richardson, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, UK

                Reviewed by: Berit Gehrke, Johannes Gutenberg Universität, Germany; Tiina Elina Sarkinen, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, UK

                *Correspondence: Alexandre Antonelli, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg Botanical Garden, Carl Skottsbergs gata 22B, SE-41319 Göteborg, Sweden alexandre.antonelli@

                This article was submitted to Evolutionary and Population Genetics, a section of the journal Frontiers in Genetics

                †These authors have contributed equally to this work.

                Copyright © 2015 Antonelli, Zizka, Silvestro, Scharn, Cascales-Miñana and Bacon.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Figures: 6, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 91, Pages: 14, Words: 9710
                Original Research


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