When evolution goes bananas

In this study of the Musaceae family, of which bananas and plantains (Musa acuminate, Musa balbinosa) are members, researchers investigate the diversification and biogeography the family’s three genera (Ensete, Musa, and Musella), and draw links to the geological history of Southeast Asia.

Data resources used via GBIF : 3,600 species occurrences (estimate)

The evolutionary patterns of plants and animals can be shaped by climate and geology. In this study of the Musaceae family, of which bananas and plantains (Musa acuminate, Musa balbinosa) are members, researchers investigate the diversification and biogeography the family’s three genera (Ensete, Musa, and Musella), and draw links to the geological history of Southeast Asia. The authors sampled 44 Musaceae species for DNA analysis and gene alignment. Combined with GBIF-mediated occurrences they construct a new phylogenetic tree showing the ancestral ranges of the three genera and revealing the origin of Musaceae in northern Indo-Burma about 50 million years ago. They estimate that the divergence of Musa into two distinct clades took place about 10 million years later, and these diversified into numerous species 20 and 25 million years ago, respectively. The authors conclude that the diversification patterns of the banana family found in the study, mirror geological and climatic events in Southeast Asia.

Citations

Janssens SB, Vandelook F, De Langhe E, Verstraete B, Smets E, Vandenhouwe I and Swennen R (2016) Evolutionary dynamics and biogeography of Musaceae reveal a correlation between the diversification of the banana family and the geological and climatic history of Southeast Asia. New Phytologist. Wiley-Blackwell, 1453–1465. Available at doi:10.1111/nph.13856.

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