Climbing the Andes to study Lupin diversification

Last updated: 26 Jun, 2018

High up in the Cordillera Blanca of the Peruvian Andes, the grey of the barren rock is broken by the delicate purple flowers of Lupinus huaronensis. Hunkering in its unusual acaulescent (stem-less) growth form at an elevation of 4,550 metres, the plant is well adapted to the diurnal freeze-thaw conditions found in the high elevation Andean grassland (Paramo, Puna, Jalca) habitats, close to the upper limits for plant growth anywhere on the planet.


Bruno Nevado and a team of researchers from the UK, Colombia and Switzerland are trying to understand the underlying genetic and adaptive reasons for very rapid recent plant speciation. Lupins are an excellent system for studying this phenomenon: the high elevation Andean evolutionary radiation of around 85 lupin species has arisen in just the last 2.5 million years, and shows one of the highest rates of species diversification for plants.



The rapid diversification of Andean lupins is still accelerating, which suggests that they are still in the early stages of an explosive radiation. The driver is thought to be linked to the emergence of isolated habitats at high elevations, following the uplift of the Andes, but the exact mechanisms and processes remain unclear.


Continue reading on the New Phyt blog.


Read the paper: Nevado, B. , Contreras‐Ortiz, N. , Hughes, C. and Filatov, D. A. (2018) Pleistocene glacial cycles drive isolation, gene flow and speciation in the high‐elevation AndesNew Phytologist 219:2, 779-793. doi: 10.1111/nph.15243