Aim The study aimed to establish areas of endemism and distribution patterns for Neotropical species of the genus Piper in the Neotropical and Andean regions by means of parsimony analysis of endemicity (PAE) and track-compatibility analysis.
Location The study area includes the Neotropical region and the Northern Andean region (Páramo-Punan subregion).
Methods We used distribution information from herbarium specimens and recent monographic revisions for 1152 species of Piper from the Neotropics. First, a PAE was attempted in order to delimit the areas of endemism. Second, we performed a track-compatibility analysis to establish distribution patterns for Neotropical species of Piper. Terminology for grouping Piper is based on recent phylogenetic analyses.
Results The PAE yielded 104 small endemic areas for the genus Piper, 80 of which are in the Caribbean, Amazonian and Paranensis subregions of the Neotropical region, and 24 in the Páramo-Punan subregion of the Andean region. Track-compatibility analysis revealed 26 generalized tracks, one in the Páramo-Punan subregion (Andean region), 19 in the Neotropical region, and six connecting the Andean and Neotropical regions. Both the generalized tracks and endemic areas indicate that distribution of Piper species is restricted to forest areas in the Andes, Amazonia, Chocó, Central America, the Guayana Shield and the Brazilian Atlantic coast.
Main conclusions Piper should not be considered an Andean-centred group as it represents two large species components with distributions centred in the Amazonian and Andean regions. Furthermore, areas of greater species richness and/or endemism are restricted to lowland habitats belonging to the Neotropical region. The distribution patterns of Neotropical species of Piper could be explained by recent events in the Neotropical region, as is the case for the track connecting Chocó and Central America, where most of the species rich groups of the genus are found. Two kinds of event could explain the biogeography of a large part of the Piper taxa with Andean–Amazonian distribution: pre-Andean and post-Andean events.
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