Endemic biota of the tropical Andes
Understanding the spatial and temporal evolution of biota in the tropical Andes is a major challenge, given the region’s topographic complexity and high beta diversity. We used a network approach to find biogeographic regions (bioregions) based on high-resolution species distribution models for 151 endemic bird taxa. Then, we used dated molecular phylogenies of 14 genera to reconstruct the area history through a sequence of allopatric speciation processes. We identified 15 biogeographical regions and found 26 events of isolation and diversification within their boundaries that are independently confirmed with disjunct distributions of sister taxa. Furthermore, these events are spatially congruent with six geographical barriers related to warm and/or dry river valleys, discontinuities in elevation, and high peaks separating fauna from different range slopes. The most important barrier is the Marañon River Valley, which limits the boundaries of four bioregions and is congruent with eight phylogenetic distribution breaks, separating the Central and Northern Andes, where the most bioregions are found. We also show that many bioregions have diffuse and overlapping structures, with contact and transition zones that challenge previous conceptions of biogeographical regions as spatially simple in structure. This study found evidence that the drivers of our identified bioregions were processes of Andean uplift and mountain dispersal facilitated by temperature oscillations of the Pleistocene. Therefore, Andean bioregions were not formed from one simple biogeographical event in a certain time frame, but from a combination of vicariance and dispersal events, which occurred in different time periods.