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Low tropical diversity during the adaptive radiation of early land plants

Wellman, Charles H., Berry, Christopher M. ORCID:, Davies, Neil S., Lindemann, Franz-Josef, Marshall, John E. A. and Wyatt, Amy 2022. Low tropical diversity during the adaptive radiation of early land plants. Nature Plants 8 (2) , 104–109. 10.1038/s41477-021-01067-w

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The latitudinal biodiversity gradient, with tropical regions acting as ‘evolutionary cradles’, is a cornerstone of current biogeographical and ecological theory1. In the modern world floral biodiversity and biomass are overwhelmingly concentrated in the tropics, and it is often assumed that the tropics were evolutionary cradles throughout land plant evolutionary history. For example, the origination and diversification of angiosperms is believed to have taken place in the Cretaceous tropics2 and modern gymnosperms in the Permian tropics3. Here, we show that during the first major diversification of land plants, in the Late Silurian–Early Devonian, land plant biodiversity was much lower at the equator compared to medium-high southern latitudes. Throughout this crucial interval of plant evolution, tropical vegetation remained depauperate and of very low taxonomic biodiversity, although with similar morphological disparity to the more diverse higher latitude floras. Possible explanations for this low tropical floral biodiversity include palaeocontinental configuration or adverse palaeotropical environmental conditions. We discount the possibility that it was simply a fortuitous feature of the biogeographical spread of the earliest vascular land plants.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Nature Research
ISSN: 2055-0278
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 March 2022
Date of Acceptance: 25 November 2021
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2023 18:40

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