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Department of Plant Sciences

Bromeliad evolution: from adversity to diversity

The bromeliads are one of the most diverse plant families in the Americas, having mastered habitats as different as tropical montane cloud forests and the world's driest deserts. Exactly how these plants have managed to adapt to such contrasting environments has remained unclear, with limited evidence to explain how evolutionary change in leaf traits has allowed bromeliads to succeed in a broad range of ecological niches. We used a variety of anatomical and physiological approaches to identify the key characteristics which have helped bromeliads to switch between habitats, and to make the transition from a soil-rooted terrestrial habit to a canopy-dwelling epiphytic habit. The results provide fascinating insights into how modifications to leaf structure and function have affected ecological and evolutionary diversification in an important plant radiation.

Males, J. & Griffiths, H. 2017. Leaf economic and hydraulic divergences underpin ecological differentiation in the Bromeliaceae. Plant, Cell & Environment doi: 10.1111/pce.12954