Schuettpelz, Eric .
The age of tropical rain forests revisited.
TROPICAL rain forests, with closed multistratal canopies dominated by angiosperms, are by far the most species-rich terrestrial ecosystems. Based on information from the angiosperm fossil record, it is generally accepted that the widespread establishment of these forests was a Cenozoic phenomenon. However, there is some fossil data supporting the existence of such communities in the Cretaceous, and this was recently corroborated by a study examining the diversification of an angiosperm clade (Malpighiales) that is now, and was inferred to have been, a major tropical rain forest component. In an effort to better understand the timing of tropical rain forest establishment, the current study shifts the focus from the angiosperms that form the foundation of these forests to the ferns that inhabit them. Epiphytic ferns compose almost one third of extant fern diversity, and are almost entirely restricted to tropical rain forest canopies. Because of this close association, the timing of epiphytic fern diversification should provide a clear signature for the timing of rain forest establishment. This study integrates a well-sampled and well-supported phylogeny for extant leptosporangiate ferns with numerous constraints from the fern fossil record, to estimate the timing and patterns of fern diversification. This broad focus encompasses multiple transitions to epiphytism, and thus provides multiple independent estimates for the timing of epiphytic fern diversification and the establishment of tropical rain forests.
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1 - Duke University, Department of Biology, 139 Biological Sciences Building, PO Box 90338, Durham, North Carolina, 27708, USA
divergence time estimates
fern (not flower) power
tropical rain forests.
Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Topics
Location: 134/Performing Arts Center
Date: Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006
Time: 8:15 AM