Geography, environment, and organismal traits in the diversification of a major tropical herbaceous angiosperm radiation

05 Apr 2018

The generation of plant diversity involves complex interactions between geography, environment, and organismal traits. Many macroevolutionary processes and emergent patterns have been identified in different plant groups through the study of spatial data, but rarely in the context of a large radiation of tropical herbaceous angiosperms. A powerful system for testing interrelated biogeographical hypotheses is provided by the terrestrial bromeliads, a Neotropical group of extensive ecological diversity and importance. In this investigation, distributional data for 564 species of terrestrial bromeliads were used to estimate variation in the position and width of species-level hydrological habitat occupancy and test six core hypotheses linking geography, environment, and organismal traits. Taxonomic groups and functional types differed in hydrological habitat occupancy, modulated by convergent and divergent trait evolution, and with contrasting interactions with precipitation abundance and seasonality. Plant traits in the Bromeliaceae are intimately associated with bioclimatic differentiation, which is in turn strongly associated with variation in geographical range size and species richness. These results emphasise the ecological relevance of structural-functional innovation in a major plant radiation.