Towards understanding the evolution of plant diversity in a biodiversity hotspot: Insights from integrative systematics
Dr. Felipe Zapata, UCLA
Understanding the origin and evolution of biodiversity is one of the main aims of systematics. Because the mountains of South America are hotspots of plant diversity, they provide an ideal opportunity to study the role that geographic and ecological factors play in the origin and evolution of plant species. In this seminar, I will present an "integrative systematics" analysis of Escallonia, an eco-phenotypically diverse group of shrubs widely distributed in montane South America. Integrating phylogenetic, biogeographic, and bioclimatic analyses with a multidimensional approach to species delimitation, I show that the majority of species in Escallonia have diversified across environmental gradients in close geographic proximity. This is consistent with the hypothesis that parapatric speciation has been the main diversification mechanism in these plants, and suggests that ecological factors may be key forces in generating and maintaining plant species diversity in the mountains of South America.