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Cenozoic seeds of Vitaceae reveal a deep history of extinction and dispersal in the Neotropics

Abstract

The remarkably diverse plant communities of the Neotropics are the result of diversification driven by multiple biotic (for example, speciation, extinction and dispersal) and abiotic (for example, climatic and tectonic) processes. However, in the absence of a well-preserved, thoroughly sampled and critically assessed fossil record, the associated processes of dispersal and extinction are poorly understood. We report an exceptional case study documenting patterns of extinction in the grape family (Vitaceae Juss.) on the basis of fossil seeds discovered in four Neotropical palaeofloras dated between 60 and 19 Ma. These include a new species that provides the earliest evidence of Vitaceae in the Western Hemisphere. Eight additional species reveal the former presence of major clades of the family that are currently absent from the Neotropics and elucidate previously unknown dispersal events. Our results indicate that regional extinction and dispersal have substantially impacted the evolutionary history of Vitaceae in the Neotropics. They also suggest that while the Neotropics have been dynamic centres of diversification through the Cenozoic, extant Neotropical botanical diversity has also been shaped by extensive extinction over the past 66 million years.

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Fig. 1: Vitaceae fossil seeds.
Fig. 2: Reconstruction of Vitaceae seeds from Neotropical Palaeocene to Miocene forests.
Fig. 3: Historical biogeography of four clades of Vitaceae.

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Data availability

All study data are included in the Article and/or its Supplementary Information. The original CT scan datasets are archived at https://www.morphosource.org/projects/000515707/temporary_link/qNRRT59boFcNbfWqpXGXV2K6?locale=en. NCBI accession numbers for phylogenetic and biogeographic analyses are available in Supplementary Information, Dataset 1.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A. Rincón, N. A. Jud, C. Montes, D. A. Ramírez and O. Rodríguez-Reyes for assistance with fieldwork in Panama; E. Cadena, D. Carvalho, J. Herrera and S. Herrera for assistance with fieldwork in Colombia; H. Wang for curatorial assistance; Z-X. Luo and A.I. Neander for aid with X-ray tomography at the University of Chicago; S. Gómez for assistance with paleogeographic reconstructions; and P. von Knorring for the fossil plant reconstructions. We also thank P. R. Crane and P. Wilf for valuable comments and discussions on drafts of the manuscript. F. Herrera thanks B. Himschoot for constant support. Funding for this work was provided by the National Geographic Society (grant EC-96755R-22) and the Negaunee Integrative Research Center, Field Museum to F.H.; the Anders Foundation, the 1923 Fund and Gregory D. and Jennifer Walston Johnson to C.J.

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F.H and M.R.C. designed the research. F.H., M.R.C., G.W.S., C.J. and S.R.M. performed research. F.H., M.R.C. and S.R.M. collected the materials. F.H., M.R.C. and G.W.S. analysed the data. F.H. wrote the paper in discussion with M.R.C., G.W.S., C.J. and S.R.M.

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Correspondence to Fabiany Herrera.

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Herrera, F., Carvalho, M.R., Stull, G.W. et al. Cenozoic seeds of Vitaceae reveal a deep history of extinction and dispersal in the Neotropics. Nat. Plants (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-024-01717-9

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