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Inselbergs

Birthplace of new botanic species

Epidendrum cinnabarinum: growing in isolation on rock outcrops in the Caatinga and Atlantic Forest

FABIO PINHEIRO / IBOTÂNICAEpidendrum secundum: growing in isolation on rock outcrops in the Caatinga and Atlantic Forest FABIO PINHEIRO / IBOTÂNICA

Further evidence has been found that the rock outcrops known as inselbergs may serve as birthplaces for new plant species. The exchange of genes between different orchid species on the same rock outcrop may be greater than the exchange between the same species on adjacent outcrops, thereby favoring the emergence of new specimens at the same site. This was the finding of a study published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology in March 2014, authored by botanists from São Paulo and Paraíba, in collaboration with colleagues from Italy and Ecuador. The researchers compared genetic markers in specimens of the orchid Epidendrum cinnabarinum gathered at 11 different spots. They also compared these markers with those of another species, E. secundum, found in nine locations in the Caatinga and Atlantic Forest of Northeast Brazil that were separated by distances of 12 to 1,000 kilometers. In some cases, sharp genetic differentiation was observed within the same species, indicative of isolation among populations. The individual orchids of these species, which grow in the Diamantina and Borborema plateaus, displayed a genetic differentiation that must have intensified over the past 120,000 years.

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