Biodiversity: Multiple origins of mountain life
Alex Antonelli from the University of Gothenburg reviews our Nature paper on endemism on Mount Kinabalu: Mount Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo, is the tallest peak between the Himalayas and New Guinea, and like other tropical mountains it is a biodiversity hotspot, containing many endemic species isolated by altitude. These authors investigate the evolutionary origins of such biodiversity by sampling the entire biota from Mount Kinabalu, including frogs, insects, arachnids, snails, leeches, mosses, flowering plants, ferns, and fungi.
DNA barcoding reveals that most of the species are younger than the 6-million-year-old mountain, and are either relatives of lowland species that have shifted their niche upwards or long-distance immigrants from other high-altitude areas. Understanding the origins of montane biodiversity will help understand its response to environmental change.