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Origins and Relationships of Tropical North America in the Context of the Boreotropics Hypothesis

Matt Lavin and Melissa Luckow
American Journal of Botany
Vol. 80, No. 1 (Jan., 1993), pp. 1-14
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2445114
Page Count: 14
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Origins and Relationships of Tropical North America in the Context of the Boreotropics Hypothesis
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Abstract

The boreotropics hypothesis postulates a preferential tropical biotic interchange between North America and Eurasia during the early Tertiary that was directed by Eocene thermal maxima and the close proximity of these two continental plates. This preferential interchange occurred at a time when South America was geologically and biotically isolated. A prediction of this hypothesis posits that a taxon with a present-day center of diversity in tropical North America, and with an early Tertiary fossil record from any region there, has a high probability of having sister-group relatives in the Paleotropics and derived relatives in South America. We propose a test of this prediction with phylogenetic studies of two pantropical taxa of Leguminosae that have early Tertiary North American fossil records. Our findings are consistent with the boreotropics hypothesis, and additional evidence suggests that many tropical elements in North America could be descendants of northern tropical progenitors. Ramifications of this hypothesis include the importance of integrating the fossil record with cladistic biogeographic studies, theoretical bases for recognizing tropical taxa with such disjunct distributions as Mexico and Madagascar, identification of taxa that may be most useful for testing vicariance models of Caribbean biogeography, and integrating the study of disjunct distributions in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere with those in the neo- and paleotropic

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