Menispermaceae and the diversification of tropical rainforests near the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary

Wei Wang*, Rosa Del C. Ortiz*, Fre´de´ric M.B. Jacques*, Xiao-Guo Xiang, Hong-Lei Li, Li Lin, Rui-Qi Li,Yang Liu, Pamela S. Soltis, Douglas E. Soltis and Zhi-Duan Chen

  • Modern tropical rainforests have the highest biodiversity of terrestrial biomes and are restricted to three low-latitude areas. However, the actual timeframe during which tropical rainforests began to appear on a global scale has been intensely disputed. Here, we used the moonseed family (Menispermaceae), an important physiognomic and structural component of tropical rainforests on a worldwide basis, to obtain new insights into the diversification of this biome.
  • We integrated phylogenetic, biogeographic and molecular dating methods to analyse temporal and spatial patterns of global diversification in Menispermaceae.
  • Importantly, a burst of moonseed diversification occurred in a narrow window of time, which coincides with the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) boundary. Our data also suggest multiple independent migrations from a putative ancestral area of Indo-Malay into other tropical regions.
  • Our data for Menispermaceae suggest that modern tropical rainforests may have appeared almost synchronously throughout the three major tropical land areas close to, or immediately following, the K–Pg mass extinction.

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