Neotropics as a Cradle for Adaptive Radiations
Neotropical ecosystems are renowned for numerous examples of adaptive radiation in both plants and animals resulting in high levels of biodiversity and endemism. However, we still lack a comprehensive review of the abiotic and biotic factors that contribute to these adaptive radiations. To fill this gap, we delve into the geological history of the region, including the role of tectonic events such as the Andean uplift, the formation of the Isthmus of Panama, and the emergence of the Guiana and Brazilian Shields. We also explore the role of ecological opportunities created by the emergence of new habitats, as well as the role of key innovations, such as novel feeding strategies or reproductive mechanisms. We discuss different examples of adaptive radiation, including classic ones like Darwin’s finches and Anolis lizards, and more recent ones like bromeliads and lupines. Finally, we propose new examples of adaptive radiations mediated by ecological interactions in their geological context. By doing so, we provide insights into the complex interplay of factors that contributed to the remarkable diversity of life in the Neotropics and highlight the importance of this region in understanding the origins of biodiversity.