MCDOWELL, TIMOTHY D.1* and PETER W. FRITSCH2. 1Department of Biological Sciences, Box 70703, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN 37614; 2Department of Botany, California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA 94118. - Biogeography and phylogeny of Caribbean plants.
The historical biogeography of the West Indies and the Caribbean
region is complex, involving numerous tectonic and climatic events,
as well as a meteor impact, promoting species divergence,
disjunction, migration, and extinction.
Further, the region is poised between the
two great landmasses of the western hemisphere, for which the Antilles
have simultaneously served as a refugium for once widespread taxa, a
conduit for intercontinental migration, and a vehicle for adaptive
radiation. The relative importance of major routes of migration, e.g.,
from Mesoamerica, southern Florida, and northern South America through
the Lesser Antilles, has shifted over time as geohistorical events
have ensued. This complexity presents a daunting yet exciting
challenge for evolutionary biologists attempting to reconstruct the
historical biogeography of the region and assessing the impact of this
history on continental floras of the Americas and elsewhere.
Considerable research has addressed Caribbean biogeography from the
perspective of various animal groups, such as the insects, lizards,
and fishes. There has been far less phylogenetically based research on
the historical biogeography of Caribbean plant groups. The development
of new molecular and analytical tools, new geological and
palynological data, and ongoing research into the systematics and
evolution of various Antillean plant genera provide material for a
reevaluation of the historical biogeography of the Caribbean region in
a phylogenetic context. This symposium will bring together researchers
with phylogenetic data on various Antillean plant groups. Its goals
are to further our understanding of general biogeographic patterns
that underlie the distributions of Caribbean plant taxa, integrate
these patterns with the biological processes thought to be involved in
their development, and identify groups and methods for future research
into the historical phytogeography of this biodiverse region.
Key words: Antilles, Caribbean, historical biogeography, phylogeny