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Perez-Escobar, Oscar Alejandro; Chomicki, Guillaume; Condamine, Fabien L.; Karremans, Adam P.; Bogarin, Diego; Matzke, Nicholas J.; Silvestro, Daniele and Antonelli, Alexandre (2017): Recent origin and rapid speciation of Neotropical orchids in the world's richest plant biodiversity hotspot. In: New Phytologist, Vol. 215, No. 2: pp. 891-905

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The Andean mountains of South America are the most species-rich biodiversity hotspot worldwide with c. 15% of the world's plant species, in only 1% of the world's land surface. Orchids are a key element of the Andean flora, and one of the most prominent components of the Neotropical epiphyte diversity, yet very little is known about their origin and diversification. We address this knowledge gap by inferring the biogeographical history and diversification dynamics of the two largest Neotropical orchid groups (Cymbidieae and Pleurothallidinae), using two unparalleled, densely sampled orchid phylogenies (including more than 400 newly generated DNA sequences), comparative phylogenetic methods, geological and biological datasets. We find that the majority of Andean orchid lineages only originated in the last 20-15 million yr. Andean lineages are derived from lowland Amazonian ancestors, with additional contributions from Central America and the Antilles. Species diversification is correlated with Andean orogeny, and multiple migrations and recolonizations across the Andes indicate that mountains do not constrain orchid dispersal over long timescales. Our study sheds new light on the timing and geography of a major Neotropical diversification, and suggests that mountain uplift promotes species diversification across all elevational zones.

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