Phylogenomics of tropical alpine species radiation

Species richness and endemism of the tropical-alpine floras of South America and Africa have attracted botanists for two centuries, dating back to Alexander von Humboldt. The alpine flora of the (sub)tropical Andes, mainly the páramo, is extremely diverse and rich in endemic species and has been identified as possibly the fastest evolving world’s biodiversity hotspot. In contrast to the páramo, the flora from tropical-alpine areas of East Africa is relatively species-poor but rather rich in endemics. The main goal of this research is to compare the timing of plant radiations in tropical-alpine habitats, detect key evolutionary processes involved in these radiations, particularly those related to Pleistocene climate oscillations, and assess their relative contribution to the origin of plant diversity in these biodiversity hotspots.

We will combine state-of-the art methods in SNP-genotyping (HybSeq and hyRAD sequencing), phylogenomics (multispecies coalescent phylogeny reconstruction) and comparative phylogeography to infer concordant patterns in the timing and progress of species radiation. We will focus on five genera from species-rich plant family Asteraceae, all of which underwent species diversification in the tropical alpine habitats of Southern America (Senecio, Loricaria, Oritrophium) and Eastern Africa (Dendrosenecio, Helichrysum).

Funding: Czech Science Foundation (20-10878S)

Key collaborators on this work are

Roswitha Schmickl (Project leader, Charles University & Czech Academy of Science)

Petr Sklenář, Tomáš Fér (Charles University, Prague)

Abel Gizaw, Christian Brochmann (Natural History Museum, University of Oslo)

Mercè Galbany-Casals (Autonomous University of Barcelona)