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Trends Ecol Evol. 1991 Dec;6(12):387-91. doi: 10.1016/0169-5347(91)90159-U.

Adaptive radiation of Espeletia in the cold andean tropics.

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Maximina Monasterio and Lina Sarmiento are at the Centro de Investigaciones Ecológicas de Los Andes Tropicales (CIELAT), Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Los Andes, Merida 5101, Venezuela.


The genus Espeletia (Asteraceae) underwent an accelerated adaptive radiation in the new habitats of the high tropical Andes after the retreat of the glaciers. From the ancestral rainforest species, with tree-like forms, the genus diversified at high altitude, developing morphological and physiological adaptations to the peculiar combination of low-temperature, energy and nutrient stresses of the tropical periglacial environments. Espeletia offers an exceptional example of a taxon undergoing a rapid evolutionary process through the colonization of a totally original environment: the cold tropics. Here we review recent research on the ecological, biogeographical, taxonomic, morphological and physiological traits that have led to the adaptive radiation of Espeletia in this extreme habitat.

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