J Syst Evol ›› 2021, Vol. 59 ›› Issue (6): 1142-1158.DOI: 10.1111/jse.12809

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Evolutionary origin of species diversity on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau

Kang-Shan Mao, Yi Wang, and Jian-Quan Liu*   

  1. Key Laboratory of Bio‐Resource and Eco‐Environment of Ministry of Education, State Key Laboratory of Hydraulics and Mountain River Engineering, College of Life Sciences, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610065, China
  • Received:2021-05-01 Accepted:2021-07-28 Online:2021-08-25 Published:2021-11-01

Abstract: The Qinghai–Tibet Plateau (QTP) sensu lato (sl) houses an exceptional species diversity in Asia. To develop a comprehensive understanding of species diversity in this fascinating region, we reviewed recent progress from biogeographic, paleogeographic, paleontological and genomic research of both plants and animals in the QTPsl. Numerous studies have been conducted to examine whether the QTPsl uplift triggered the production of rich species diversity there, whether a Quaternary “unified ice sheet” eliminated plants and animals on the central plateau and how high-altitude species developed the extreme environment adaptations. Major disputes arose about the first issue, mainly from different understanding of the QTP circumscriptions and related uplift, inaccurate dating of molecular phylogenetic trees, and non-causal correlations between uplift and species diversification. The QTPsl uplift is spatially and temporally heterogeneous, and abundant fossils reported recently similarly support such an asynchronous upheaval model across the entire region. Available phylogeographic studies of alpine plants and animals suggested their glacial refugia in the central QTPsl, rejecting a unified ice sheet during the Last Glacial Maximum. Genomic evidence from a limited number of alpine species has identified numerous candidate genes for high-altitude adaptation. In the future, more studies should be focused on speciation and adaptation mechanisms of the alpine species in the QTPsl based on the cutting-edge methods.

Key words: adaptation, biodiversity, Hengduan Mountains, Himalaya, QTP, uplift