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Biol Lett. 2008 Aug 23;4(4):382-4. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0109.

Population divergence in plant species reflects latitudinal biodiversity gradients.

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  • 1Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


The trend for increasing biodiversity from the poles to the tropics is one of the best-known patterns in nature. This latitudinal biodiversity gradient has primarily been documented so far with extant species as the measure of biodiversity. Here, we evaluate the global pattern in biodiversity across latitudes based on the magnitude of genetic population divergence within plant species, using a robust spatial design to compare published allozyme datasets. Like the pattern of plant species richness across latitudes, we expected the divergence among populations of current plant species would have a similar pattern and direction. We found that lower latitudinal populations showed greater genetic differentiation within species after controlling for geographical distance. Our analyses are consistent with previous population-level studies in animals, suggesting a high possibility of tropical peaks in speciation rates associated with observed levels of species richness.

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