Speciation across the Earth driven by global cooling in terrestrial Orchids

  • Jamie D. W. Thompson (Creator)
  • Katie Davis (Creator)
  • Harry O. Dodd (Creator)
  • Matthew A. Wills (Creator)
  • Nicholas K. Priest (Creator)



Although climate change has been implicated as a major catalyst of diversification, its effects are thought to be inconsistent and much less pervasive than localized climate or the accumulation of species with time. Focused analyses of highly speciose clades are needed in order to disentangle the consequences of climate change, geography, and time. Here, we show that global cooling shapes the biodiversity of terrestrial orchids. Using a phylogeny of 1,475 species of Orchidoideae, the largest terrestrial orchid subfamily, we find that speciation rate is dependent on historic global cooling, not time, tropical distributions, elevation, variation in chromosome number, or other types of historic climate change. Relative to the gradual accumulation of species with time, models specifying speciation driven by historic global cooling are over 700 times more likely. Evidence ratios estimated for 212 other plant and animal groups reveal that terrestrial orchids represent one of the best-supported cases of temperature-spurred speciation yet reported. Employing >2.5 million georeferenced records, we find that global cooling drove contemporaneous diversification in each of the seven major orchid bioregions of the Earth. With the current emphasis on understanding and predicting the immediate impacts of global warming, our study provides a clear case study of the long-term impacts of global climate change on biodiversity.

External deposit with Dryad.
Date made available31 Aug 2023

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