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Understanding current patterns of diversity and distribution: How and when did Himalayan faunal elements evolve?



Quick facts

Project title: 
Understanding current patterns of diversity and distribution: How and when did Himalayan faunal elements evolve?
ZFMK Project lead: 
Object of research: 
Himalaya-Tibet Orogen (HTO), diversity patterns, distribution, Amphibians, Reptiles


Project start: 2020

The uplift of the Himalaya-Tibet Orogen (HTO) has significantly influenced the global climate and due to its massive elevations and river incisions it likely acts as a ‘species pump’. However, our understanding of the historical biogeography of species in the HTO is far from being comprehensive, as are details of the spatiotemporal evolution of its uplift. The Himalaya plays a key role in elucidating these processes. Preliminary molecular work in amphibians and ground beetles provide indications for a Paleo-Tibetan origin of Himalayan faunal components, challenging the long-held belief of immigration from China-Indochina into the Himalaya. Yet, a comprehensive phylogeographic approach is needed, requiring a systematic sampling from biogeographically important regions and an extended analytical framework to pinpoint patterns of diversification in the Himalaya and adjacent regions and to uncover the relative contribution of in-situ speciation versus colonization in the HTO.
Using cutting-edge targeted exon capture technology in four terrestrial model systems (spiny frogs, lazy toads, the Himalayan toad and ground skinks) different biogeographic hypotheses will be tested (immigration, vicariance, out-of-Tibet, Paleo-Tibetan origin).
The following objectives are pursued by the project: i) Detailed phylogenetic inventory in areas along the southern slope of the Himalaya and surrounding mountain areas; ii) Reconstructing diversification/colonization pattern; iii) Providing biological evidences for the time of (primary) uplifts of HTO components. Access to museum samples at the collaboration partners’ disposal includes almost all relevant species.
Data amount and resulting analytical power will allow drawing solid conclusions on the colonization history and uplift of the HTO. It will also allow identifying factors important for species diversification and contribute to an understanding of the Tertiary environmental conditions of the HTO.


Contact person

+49 228 9122-253
+49 228 9122-212
s.hofmann [at]