Framework for palm biogeography: Researchers establish a hypothesis for the evolution of palms in time and space

Mar 27, 2013
Bismarkia nobilis. Credit: Bill Baker

A series of papers in scientific journals has established a general framework for the biogeographical evolution of palms.

In companion papers in the Journal of Biogeography, Bill Baker (Kew) and Thomas Couvreur (IRD, Montpellier) present a dated phylogenetic analysis of all palm genera with ancestral area reconstructions and detailed diversification analyses. They provide the first methodologically rigorous hypothesis for the evolution of palms in space and time, highlighting the Cretaceous crown node radiation of the family (ca. 100 Ma) in Laurasia and the role of long-distance dispersal as a major mechanism underpinning their global distribution.

The researchers' diversification studies suggest that the low of palms in Africa (65 species) relative to other regions is explained by increased in situ diversification in Asia, the Americas, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, rather than Neogene extinctions in Africa as suggested by other authors.

The framework established in this study was used to analyse the phylogenetic foundations of palm distributions across Malesia for a paper in the book Biotic evolution and environmental change in Southeast Asia.

In a further study led by Aarhus University, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, the dated phylogenetic tree was used in conjunction with for all palm species to explore the phylogenetic structure of palm assemblages worldwide and the imprints of historical processes in the resultant patterns. The results highlight the role of continental isolation, climate change and habitat loss throughout the Cenozoic for in the Tropics.

Explore further: 'Tiger heavyweight' Nepal hosts anti-poaching summit

More information: Baker, W.J. & Couvreur, T.L.P. (2013). Global biogeography and diversification of palms sheds light on the evolution of tropical lineages. I. Historical biogeography. Journal of Biogeography 40: 274–285.

Baker, W.J. & Couvreur, T.L.P. (2013). Global biogeography and diversification of palms sheds light on the evolution of tropical lineages. II. Diversification history and origin of regional assemblages. Journal of Biogeography 40: 286–298.

Baker, W.J. & Couvreur T.L.P. (2012). Biogeography and distribution patterns of Southeast Asian palms. In Biotic evolution and environmental change in Southeast Asia, Gower, D.J., K.G. Johnson, J.E. Richardson, B.R. Rosen, L. Rüber & Williams, S.T. (Eds.) Cambridge University Press. Pp. 165–189.

Kissling, W.D., Eiserhardt, W.L., Baker, W.J., Borchsenius, F., Couvreur, T.L.P., Balslev, H. & Svenning, J.C. (2012). Cenozoic imprints on the phylogenetic structure of palm species assemblages worldwide. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109, 7379–7384.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Madagascar's palm trees at risk of extinction

Oct 17, 2012

An environmental group said Wednesday that a vast swath of Madagascar's unique palm tree species was threatened with extinction. Their dying out would harm the livelihoods of local people as well as endanger several animal ...

Biogeography of Protea in the Cape

Feb 22, 2011

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.

Rapid burst of flowering plants set stage for other species

Feb 09, 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 ...

Recommended for you

'Tiger heavyweight' Nepal hosts anti-poaching summit

5 hours ago

Nepal's success in turning tiger-fearing villagers into their protectors has seen none of the endangered cats killed for almost three years, offering key lessons for an anti-poaching summit opening in Kathmandu ...

GMO mosquito plan sparks outcry in Florida

Jan 31, 2015

A British company's plan to unleash hordes of genetically modified mosquitoes in Florida to reduce the threat of dengue fever and other diseases has sparked an outcry from fearful residents.

Population genomics unveil seahorse domain

Jan 30, 2015

In a finding vital to effective species management, a team including City College of New York biologists has determined that the lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus) is more a permanent resident of the we ...

Researchers develop new potato cultivar

Jan 30, 2015

Dakota Ruby is the name of a new potato cultivar developed by the NDSU potato breeding project and released by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station. Dakota Ruby has bright red skin, stores well and is intended ...

User comments : 0

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.