Amazonian biodiversity much older than previously thought

November 30th, 2010 - 3:32 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Nov 30 (ANI): A new study has suggested that the Amazonian biodiversity originated with the formation of the Andes-and dates back further than previously realised.

An international research group, headed by a researcher from the University of Gothenburg, conducted the study.

“With the results we present in this article, we’ve rewritten the entire history of Amazonia in terms of the development of its biodiversity,” said Alexandre Antonelli from the University of Gothenburg.

Although researchers have long suspected that the diversity of the Amazonian rainforest was affected by the Andes, the causal links have been unclear until now, and there have been a wide range of scientific theories on the origins of the species found there.

A team of researchers led by Antonelli and the University of Amsterdam’s Carina Hoorn has now compared the pattern of today’s biodiversity in Amazonia with geological and molecular data for the last 65 million years.

“We suspected from some scattered fossils and dated species trees that the Amazonian diversity arose after the separation from Africa. So we looked at the whole period.

“I worked mainly on coordinating a survey of DNA-based studies of the relationships between different species of plants and animals. We’ve examined hundreds of scientific publications and have found that very few of the genera are as young as people thought,” said Antonelli.

The collated results have shown that the greatest biodiversity is to be found in connection with the Andes, an area that formed when the tectonic plates along the Pacific coast were pressed together to create this mighty range of mountains.

The new mountains had a major impact on the environment, with living conditions changing fundamentally for plants and animals in Amazonia.

The restructuring of the Earth’s crust changed the large wetland areas found in northern South America, which dried up as the Amazon River formed. This, in turn, opened up new land for colonisation by plants and animals.

“We were surprised that there was such a strong link between the formation of the Andes and the diversity in Amazonia,” added Antonelli.

The findings were published in the journal Science. (ANI)

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