Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Andes' Formation Was A 'Species Pump' For South America

Date:
January 11, 2009
Source:
University of Gothenburg
Summary:
South America is the world’s most species-rich area. There have been many theories as to why, ranging from animals and plants accompanying the continent when it broke loose from Africa to variations in the extent of the rainforests over millions of years creating new species. New research supports the theory that the formation of the Andes was a species pump which spread animals and plants across the continent.

South America is the world’s most species-rich area. There have been many theories as to why, ranging from animals and plants accompanying the continent when it broke loose from Africa to variations in the extent of the rainforests over millions of years creating new species.

A thesis from Gothenburg University supports a different theory: that the formation of the Andes was a species pump which spread animals and plants across the continent.

South America’s unique richness of species has been explained by several hypotheses. One states that animals and plants “accompanied” the South American continent when it broke loose from Africa 100 million years ago. Another proposes that many species were formed when the rainforest shrank into smaller areas during the Ice Ages and then subsequently expanded.

Brazilian-born researcher Alexandre Antonelli, a doctoral student at Gothenburg University’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences has made several trips to South America and collected hundreds of species as research specimens. Using DNA technology, he has traced when and where some of South America’s plant and animal species developed by studying the relationships of different species, how long ago they separated out from a common ancestor and the geographical distribution of this ancestor when the species formed.

Plant and animal groups both too young and too old

The results indicate that most of South America’s plant and animal groups are far too young to have been alive when Africa and South America were a single continent. On the other hand, most animal and plant groups are too old for their origins to be connected to vegetation changes during the Ice Ages which was considered the primary reason for South America’s diversity.

There again, according to the thesis, there is a strong connection between the elevation of the northern Andes and a massive rise in species. This is the first time such a connection has been demonstrated.

New species

“The spread southwards along the Andes was not possible until the northern part of the mountain range came into contact with its central tracts, an event which took place 10-12 million years ago. Prior to this, a long lowland corridor that was periodically submerged in seawater acted as an effective barrier to the spread. At the same time, the elevation of the Andes brought about the end of Lago Pebas, a gigantic sea covering the whole of western Amazonas. Thus, many species were able to spread from the northern Andes to areas such as Amazonas, Caribbean and Central America, where new species developed.

“In this way, the Andes became a “species pump” for the biodiversity of the entire American continent,” says Alexandre Antonelli.

Long-term strategies

The discovery that most of South America’s species are several million years old has given strong grounds for protecting their survival and Alexandre Antonelli’s thesis shows the important of long-term thinking when strategies for species preservation are being designed.

The thesis, Spatiotemporal Evolution of Neotropical Organisms: New Insights into an Old Riddle was defended by viva on 28 November. The supervisor was Dr Claes Persson.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Gothenburg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Gothenburg. "Andes' Formation Was A 'Species Pump' For South America." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090109083451.htm>.
University of Gothenburg. (2009, January 11). Andes' Formation Was A 'Species Pump' For South America. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090109083451.htm
University of Gothenburg. "Andes' Formation Was A 'Species Pump' For South America." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090109083451.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) — Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) — The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) — A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins