Adapting to the extremes of living in the desert

Species adapted to the extreme and arid conditions of deserts are usually highly specialized and endemic to the area. This study presents a historical biogeography of the Inuleae-Plucheinae tribe, a prominent example of arid flora with more than 250 species.

Data resources used via GBIF : ~17,000 species occurrences
Namib Desert, Namibia

Namib Desert, Namibia by Santiago Medem. Photo licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Deserts are usually not biodiversity hotspots, but the species adapted to the extreme and arid conditions are usually highly specialized and endemic to the area. Representing more than 250 species, the Inuleae-Plucheinae tribe is a prominent example of arid flora found globally, and this study presents a historical biogeography of the group. Using two different approaches (one based on GBIF-mediated occurrences), the researchers inferred the ancestral areas of the tribe to range from the Namib desert to the western Kalahari. The temporal origin is estimated to be 15.4 million years ago, coinciding with an increase in strength of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and aridification of the Namib area, suggesting changes in climatic conditions as a driver of evolutionary radiation. The study shows how studying large groups of organisms can help uncover patterns difficult to reveal in single-species studies.

Citations

Nylinder S, Razafimandimbison SG and Anderberg AA (2016) From the Namib around the world: biogeography of the Inuleae-Plucheinae (Asteraceae). Journal of Biogeography. Wiley-Blackwell 43(9): 1705–1716. Available at doi:10.1111/jbi.12764.

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