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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

The origin of modern patterns of continental diversity in Mauritiinae palms: the Neotropical museum and the Afrotropical graveyard

Bacon, Christine D.; Silvestro, Daniele; Hoorn, Carina; Bogota-Angel, Giovanni; Antonelli, Alexandre; Chazot, Nicolas


While the latitudinal diversity gradient has received much attention, biodiversity and species richness also vary between continents across similar latitudes. Fossil information can be used to understand the evolutionary mechanisms that generated such variation between continents of similar latitudes. We integrated fossil data into a phylogenetic analysis of the Mauritiinae palms, whose extant diversity is restricted to the Neotropics, but extended across Africa and India during most of the Cenozoic. Mauritiinae diverged from its sister lineage Raphiinae ca 106 Ma. Using ancestral state estimation and a lineage through time analysis, we found that diversity arose globally during the late Cretaceous and Palaeocene across South America, Africa and India. The Palaeocene-Eocene transition (ca 56 Ma) marked the end of global Mauritiinae expansion, and the beginning of their decline in both Africa and India. Mauritiinae disappeared from the Indian subcontinent and Africa at the end of the Eocene and the Miocene, respectively. By contrast, Neotropical diversity steadily increased over the last 80 Myr. Taken together, our results suggest that the Neotropics functioned as a continental-scale refuge for Mauritiinae palms, where lineages survived and diversified while global climatic changes that drastically reduced rainforests led to their demise on other continents.


diversification; evolution; longitudinal diversity gradient; palms; palynology

Published in

Biology Letters
2022, volume: 18, number: 11, article number: 20220214
Publisher: ROYAL SOC

Authors' information

Bacon, Christine D.
University of Gothenburg
Silvestro, Daniele
Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics
Silvestro, Daniele
University of Gothenburg
Silvestro, Daniele
University of Fribourg
Hoorn, Carina
University of Amsterdam
Bogota-Angel, Giovanni
Universidad Distrital Francisco Jose de Caldas
Antonelli, Alexandre
University of Gothenburg
Antonelli, Alexandre
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Antonelli, Alexandre
University of Oxford
University of Gothenburg
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

UKÄ Subject classification

Evolutionary Biology

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