Aarhus Universitets segl

Evolution of mountain plants

Evolution of mountain plants

When, where and why did the exceptional plant diversity of mountains originate?

Mountains are hotspots of plant diversity dotted around the earth, often harbouring lots of unique species that are perfectly adapted to life at high altitudes. How did those species get there, and how did they acquire their sophisticated adaptations?

Multiple processes likely play a role, such as evolution from lowland relatives, speciation within mountain systems, dispersal between mountain systems, and connections to high-latitude regions. Finally, mountains may also act as an evolutionary source of lowland plant diversity. But what is the relative role of those processes? We are trying to answer these questions, currently using the genus Saxifraga as a model system. With about 450 species found in mountain regions across the northern Hemisphere as well as in the Arctic, Saxifraga is a great model for studying the evolution and biogeography of mountain floras.

With support from the David and Claudia Harding Foundation, we have generated data on the phylogeny of Saxifraga, which we are now using to test some of the above processes.

Group members involved: Angelo Moerland, Tom Carruthers, Wolf Eiserhardt

Key collaborators: Jurriaan de Vos (University of Basel)