Insights into the historical construction of species-rich Mesoamerican seasonally dry tropical forests: the diversification of Bursera (Burseraceae, Sapindales)


Author for correspondence:
Susana Magallón
Tel: +52 55 5622 9087


  • Mesoamerican arid biomes epitomize neotropical rich and complex biodiversity. To document some of the macroevolutionary processes underlying the vast species richness of Mesoamerican seasonally dry tropical forests (SDTFs), and to evaluate specific predictions about the age, geographical structure and niche conservatism of SDTF-centered woody plant lineages, the diversification of Bursera is reconstructed.
  • Using a nearly complete Bursera species-level phylogeny from nuclear and plastid genomic markers, we estimate divergence times, test for phylogenetic and temporal diversification heterogeneity, test for geographical structure, and reconstruct habitat shifts.
  • Bursera became differentiated in the earliest Eocene, but diversified during independent early Miocene consecutive radiations that took place in SDTFs. The late Miocene average age of Bursera species, the presence of phylogenetic geographical structure, and its strong conservatism to SDTFs conform to expectations derived from South American SDTF-centered lineages.
  • The diversification of Bursera suggests that Mesoamerican SDTF richness derives from high speciation from the Miocene onwards uncoupled from habitat shifts, during a period of enhanced aridity resulting mainly from global cooling and regional rain shadows.