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.
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.