Evolution of palms

Palms (Arecaeae) are a crucial part of tropical ecosystems, have high economic value and are a model group in ecology and biogeography. I am interested in the evolution of a subtribe of palms, the Lepidocaryeae, and the factors driving there diversification. The Lepidocaryeae include some particularly iconic species such as Mauritia flexuosa  which can dominant vast areas in tropical America in monotypic stands, or Raphia regalis which has the longest leaves of all plants. Strikingly the Lepidocaryeae deviate from the general biodiversity pattern and are more species rich in Africa than in South America. In fact, they comprise the major fraction of the palm flora of mainland Africa. I am contributing to on-going research trying to understand this striking pattern in an evolutionary context, by reconstruction trait evolution and climatic niche evolution on an NGS phylogeny.

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