Mechanisms and tempo of evolution in the African Guineo–Congolian rainforest

Vanessa Plana


This paper reviews how and when African rainforest diversity arose, presenting evidence from both plant and animal studies. Preliminary investigations show that these African forests are an assemblage of species of varying age. Phylogenetic evidence, from both African rainforest angiosperms and vertebrates, suggest a Tertiary origin for the major lineages in some of these groups. In groups where savannah species are well represented and rainforest species are a minority, the latter appear to be relicts of a Mid–Tertiary rainforest. By contrast, species that are primarily adapted to rainforest have arisen in the past 10 Myr with the main morphological innovations dating from the Late Miocene, and Quaternary speciation dominating in large, morphologically homogeneous groups. The small number of species–level phylogenies for African rainforest plants hinders a more incisive and detailed study into the historical assembly of these continental forests.

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