The origin and speciation of orchids

Oscar A. Pérez‐Escobar, Diego Bogarín, Natalia A. S. Przelomska, James D. Ackerman, Juan A. Balbuena, Sidonie Bellot, Roland P. Bühlmann, Betsaida Cabrera, Jose Aguilar Cano, Martha Charitonidou, Guillaume Chomicki, Mark A. Clements, Phillip Cribb, Melania Fernández, Nicola S. Flanagan, Barbara Gravendeel, Eric Hágsater, John M. Halley, Ai‐Qun Hu, Carlos JaramilloAnna Victoria Mauad, Olivier Maurin, Robert Müntz, Ilia J. Leitch, Lan Li, Raquel Negrão, Lizbeth Oses, Charlotte Phillips, Milton Rincon, Gerardo A. Salazar, Lalita Simpson, Eric Smidt, Rodolfo Solano‐Gomez, Edicson Parra‐Sánchez, Raymond l. Tremblay, Cassio van den Berg, Boris Stefan Villanueva Tamayo, Alejandro Zuluaga, Alexandre R. Zuntini, Mark W. Chase, Michael F. Fay, Fabien L. Condamine, Felix Forest, Katharina Nargar, Susanne S. Renner, William J. Baker, Alexandre Antonelli

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Orchids constitute one of the most spectacular radiations of flowering plants. However, their origin, spread across the globe, and hotspots of speciation remain uncertain due to the lack of an up-to-date phylogeographic analysis.

We present a new Orchidaceae phylogeny based on combined high-throughput and Sanger sequencing data, covering all five subfamilies, 17/22 tribes, 40/49 subtribes, 285/736 genera, and c. 7% (1921) of the 29 524 accepted species, and use it to infer geographic range evolution, diversity, and speciation patterns by adding curated geographical distributions from the World Checklist of Vascular Plants.

The orchids' most recent common ancestor is inferred to have lived in Late Cretaceous Laurasia. The modern range of Apostasioideae, which comprises two genera with 16 species from India to northern Australia, is interpreted as relictual, similar to that of numerous other groups that went extinct at higher latitudes following the global climate cooling during the Oligocene. Despite their ancient origin, modern orchid species diversity mainly originated over the last 5 Ma, with the highest speciation rates in Panama and Costa Rica.

These results alter our understanding of the geographic origin of orchids, previously proposed as Australian, and pinpoint Central America as a region of recent, explosive speciation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)700-716
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
Early online date21 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2024


  • high-latitude extinction
  • historical biogeography
  • Laurasia
  • macroevolution
  • Neotropics
  • Orchidaceae

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