Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Andes' formation was a 'species pump' for South America

09.01.2009
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

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.

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.

Helena Aaberg | alfa
Further information:
http://hdl.handle.net/2077/17695
http://www.gu.se

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

nachricht How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>