• Andean uplift;
  • Central Andes;
  • disjunctions;
  • local endemics;
  • molecular dating;
  • molecular phylogeny;
  • Neotropics;
  • rock outcrops;
  • SDTF ;
  • Yungas



To reconstruct the spatio-temporal evolution of Fosterella (Bromeliaceae), a genus characterized by a high degree of endemism in the Central Andes, and to account for contemporary patterns of diversity and distribution within the genus.


Fosterella has its centre of diversity in the Central Andes (24 species), where it occurs in two major biomes: the Yungas and seasonally dry tropical forests (SDTF). The genus displays three major disjunctions: Amazonia (one species), Central America (one species), and the Brazilian Shield (five species).


Phylogenetic relationships within Fosterella were inferred based on six plastid DNA regions. Parsimony and likelihood methods, a Bayesian relaxed molecular clock, ancestral area reconstructions, and diversification rate analyses were used to infer the spatio-temporal evolution of Fosterella.


The origin of extant lineages of Fosterella was placed in the late Miocene (c. 9.6 Ma) during the last rapid Andean uplift. SDTF and azonal lowland sites were inferred as the most likely ancestral habitats. The Yungas were colonized several times independently from c. 4.7 Ma onwards. Only one clade diversified in the Yungas, indicative of an ecological shift to moister and cooler conditions. Two recent long-distance dispersals to Central America and to Amazonia were inferred. Diversification rates within Fosterella were found to be constant through time and comparatively low (0.4 species Myr−1).

Main conclusions

Allopatric speciation is the main mode of diversification in Fosterella. The isolated distribution of suitable habitats fostered the evolution of a high degree of endemism. The low speciation rates in Fosterella contrast with high diversification rates of Andean high-elevation taxa but are similar to other Andean low- to mid-elevation taxa. The last rapid Andean uplift did not leave a detectable signature in the diversification rates of Fosterella.