Carnations show the fastest known diversification rate in plants

January 28, 2011
Dianthus gratianopolitanus (Image: Peter Gasson)

( -- Scientists have discovered the most rapid speciation event currently known in plants – not in plants from the biodiverse rainforests or oceanic islands, but in the genus Dianthus in Europe.

As part of a EU-funded project on biodiversity hotspots, Luis Valente (PhD student), Dr Pablo Vargas (Madrid Botanical Garden) and project leader Vincent Savolainen (Imperial College London & RBG Kew) have found that carnations (Dianthus, Caryophyllaceae), a well known group of from temperate Eurasia, have diversified at the most rapid rate ever reported in plants or terrestrial vertebrates.

Using phylogenetic methods, they found that the majority of species of carnations belong to a lineage that is remarkably species-rich in Europe and arose at the rate of 2.2–7.6 species per million years.

A shift in diversification rates of carnations was detected that coincided with a period of increase in climatic aridity in the Pleistocene, suggesting a link between climate and biodiversity.

This explosive radiation indicates that Europe, the continent with the world's best-studied flora, has been underestimated as a cradle of recent and rapid speciation.

Explore further: DNA 'barcode' identified for plants

More information: Valente, L.M., Savolainen, V. & Vargas, P. (2010). Unparalleled rates of species diversification in Europe. Proc. R. Soc. B 277:1489–1496.

Originally published in Kew Scientist, issue 37,

Related Stories

DNA 'barcode' identified for plants

February 5, 2008

A 'barcode' gene that can be used to distinguish between the majority of plant species on Earth has been identified by scientists who publish their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal today.

11,000 alien species invade Europe

November 20, 2008

For the first time it is now possible to get a comprehensive overview of which alien species are present in Europe, their impacts and consequences for the environment and society. More than 11,000 alien species have been ...

Rapid burst of flowering plants set stage for other species

February 9, 2009

A new University of Florida study based on DNA analysis from living flowering plants shows that the ancestors of most modern trees diversified extremely rapidly 90 million years ago, ultimately leading to the formation of ...

35,000 new species 'sitting in cupboards'

December 7, 2010

( -- Of 70,000 species of flowering plants yet to be described by scientists, more than half may already have been collected but are lying unknown and unrecognised in collections around the world, Oxford University ...

New botanic database holds a million plant names

December 29, 2010

Capping the UN's International Year of Biodiversity, botanists in Britain and the United States on Wednesday unveiled a library of plant names aimed at helping conservationists, drug designers and agriculture researchers.

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

A huge chunk of a tardigrade's genome comes from foreign DNA

November 23, 2015

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have sequenced the genome of the nearly indestructible tardigrade, the only animal known to survive the extreme environment of outer space, and found something ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.