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Flowering plants, with more than ~290,000 species in 435 families, are the dominant and most important group of terrestrial plants. However, the origin and diversification of flowering plants (angiosperms) has been surrounded by controversy ever since Charles Darwin called this an ‘abominable mystery’ back in 1879. As far as the fossil record goes, flowering plants suddenly appeared in the Early Cretaceous (~140 million years ago) and almost immediately (by geological standards) started to diversify dramatically, eventually resulting in one of the most transformative revolutions in Earth’s history. However, the initial burst of diversification of flowering plants did not translate into these being dominant in terrestrial ecosystems. No one knows exactly when this happened or which groups of angiosperms (living or extinct) were involved in the transition to angiosperm-dominated ecosystems as we know today. This is exactly what we wanted to answer in our most recent publication in Nature Ecology and Evolution (Ramírez-Barahona et al. 2020).
Ongoing climate change is one of the most important threats to biodiversity and crop sustainability. The impact of climate change is often evaluated on the basis of expected changes in species’ geographical distributions, yet genomic diversity, local adaptation, and migration are seldom integrated into projections of species responses to climate change.
Host specialization is traditionally viewed as the pathway to speciation in parasitic plants. However, geographical and environmental changes can also influence parasite speciation through population isolation and secondary contact.
Variation in the rates of molecular evolution among lineages (heterotachy) has been widely documented throughout the tree of life. However, the processes influencing the speed at which DNA evolves in different lineages are not well understood. Continue reading
Pleistocene glacial periods have had a major influence on the genetic variation and differentiation of plant populations in tropical mountains. However, the effect of these cycles on morphological differentiation remains virtually unexplored.
The prevalent view about genetic structuring in parasitic plants is that host-race formation is due to varying degrees of host specificity. However, the relative importance of ecological niche divergence and host specificity remains poorly understood.
Variation in species diversity among lineages is a major feature of evolution. However, factors affecting species diversification remain largely unexplored, specially in plants. Continue reading