Jan 23, 2019 | Updated: 06:36 PM EST

Giving Birth To New Species: Ecosystem Diversify Faster As Hengduan Mountains Form

Apr 04, 2017 11:16 PM EDT


Scientists are arriving at conclusive evidence that new species are flourishing as mountains are forming. China's Hengduan Mountains and its surrounding areas are forming and it is becoming the abode of diverse plants and animals. Now, there are clues that ecosystem adapts to new environments as the mountain arises.

According to associate author Rick Ree of the Chicago Field Museum, there are two ways where species can get in the mountains. They either emigrated from another place or they are from an original occupant but evolved to adapt to their new environment. These new species evolve and diversify faster as the mountain forms, like in the case of Hengduan Mountains.

The Hengduan Mountains is a relatively new geologic feature by scientific standards - at least eight million-year old. With temperate features, it is unusual that it is abode for diverse species like those of tropical mountains, PhysOrg reported. Ree concluded that these plants and animals were formed as a result of evolution from where they split to form new species as the mountain forms.

As the rising Hengduan Mountains triggers new elevation, new soil chemistry and different climates, plants and animals themselves adapt. These new species evolve with features that can live through the ever-changing conditions. Ree called this phenomenon as the uplift-driven diversification.

Ree also compared the "young" Hengduan Mountains with the adjacent Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau which is geologically older. The two are basically next to each other but have different ecosystem, according to Science Daily. Again, the findings are pointing that new species were formed faster in Hengduan compared to those in the neighboring mountains.

Meanwhile, Ree and his associates performed a phylogenetic analyses of plants in the Hengduan Mountains. They matched the DNA sequences of the new species to those of fossil plants. The team found out a combination of modern plant DNA and ancient fossil plants. This in turn have provided a conclusion that their ancestral species branched apart as the mountain forms.

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