Rapid Diversification of a Species-Rich Genus of Neotropical Rain Forest Trees

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Science  21 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5538, pp. 2242-2245
DOI: 10.1126/science.1061421

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Species richness in the tropics has been attributed to the gradual accumulation of species over a long geological period in stable equatorial climates or, conversely, to speciation in response to late Tertiary geological events and unstable Pleistocene climates. DNA sequence data are consistent with recent diversification inInga, a species-rich neotropical tree genus. We estimate that speciation was concentrated in the past 10 million years, with many species arising as recently as 2 million years ago. This coincides with the more recent major uplifts of the Andes, the bridging of the Isthmus of Panama, and Quaternary glacial cycles. Inga may be representative of other species-rich neotropical genera with rapid growth and reproduction, which contribute substantially to species numbers in the world's most diverse flora.

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