Biogeography of Protea in the Cape

February 22, 2011
Protea compacta Credit: Tim Barraclough

The South African Cape region is a hotspot of angiosperm biodiversity, but the reasons for the high levels of diversity and endemism are still obscure.

Protea (Proteaceae) is a genus that has its centre of and endemism in the Cape, but its also has smaller numbers of species in tropical Africa, some occurring as far as Eritrea and Angola.

In a recent phylogenetic study of Protea published in , a team of scientists from Imperial College London, the South African National Biodiversity Institute, Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid, Tel Aviv University and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, identified the Cape as the ancestral area for the radiation of the extant lineages of the genus. Contrary to previous views, most species in subtropical and tropical Africa are derived from a single invasion, and diversification rates have been similar both inside and outside the Cape region. Migration northwards opened up vast areas, but the resulting lineages have not diversified as extensively at fine spatial scales as those in the Cape.

In Protea, higher net rates of diversification do not explain the high levels of diversity and endemism in the Cape. Instead, understanding the patterns of diversity in the Cape will require an explanation of how Cape are able to diverge and persist at such small spatial scales.

Explore further: Another dolphin stranding off Cape Cod

More information: Valente, L.M., et al. (2010). Diversification of the African genus Protea (Proteaceae) in the Cape biodiversity hotspot and beyond: equal rates in different biomes. Evolution 64:745-760

Related Stories

South Africa in grip of strangulation spate

October 21, 2008

Murder of women by strangulation is a serious problem in South Africa. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Public Health compared four South African cities for the period 2001 to 2005, and report information ...

Cape tulips -- pretty but pests in pastures

August 17, 2009

CSIRO and the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA) are collaborating to try to outwit one of southern Australia's worst agricultural weeds.

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 ...


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.