- Global diversification of a tropical plant growth form: environmental correlates and historical contingencies in climbing palms
- Frontiers in Genetics
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- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Tropical rain forests (TRF) are the most diverse terrestrial biome on Earth, but the diversification dynamics of their constituent growth forms remain largely unexplored. Climbing plants contribute significantly to species diversity and ecosystem processes in TRF. We investigate the broad-scale patterns and drivers of species richness as well as the diversification history of climbing and non-climbing palms (Arecaceae). We quantify to what extent macroecological diversity patterns are related to contemporary climate, forest canopy height, and paleoclimatic changes. We test whether diversification rates are higher for climbing than non-climbing palms and estimate the origin of the climbing habit. Climbers account for 22% of global palm species diversity, mostly concentrated in Southeast Asia. Global variation in climbing palm species richness can be partly explained by past and present-day climate and rain forest canopy height, but regional differences in residual species richness after accounting for current and past differences in environment suggest a strong role of historical contingencies in climbing palm diversification. Climbing palms show a higher net diversification rate than non-climbers. Diversification analyses of palms detected a diversification rate increase along the branches leading to the most species-rich clade of climbers. Ancestral character reconstructions revealed that the climbing habit originated between early Eocene and Miocene. These results imply that changes from non-climbing to climbing habits may have played an important role in palm diversification, resulting in the origin of one fifth of all palm species. We suggest that, in addition to current climate and paleoclimatic changes after the late Neogene, present-day diversity of climbing palms can be explained by morpho-anatomical innovations, the biogeographic history of Southeast Asia, and/or ecological opportunities due to the diversification of high-stature dipterocarps in Asian TRFs.
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