Placing the Origin of Two Species-Rich Genera in the Late Cretaceous with Later Species Divergence in the Tertiary: A Phylogenetic, Biogeographic and Molecular Dating Analysis of Piper and Peperomia (Piperaceae)

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Nearly all of the species diversity in Piperaceae is encompassed within Piper and Peperomia. Both genera are pan-tropical with areas of diversification in the Neotropics and Southeast Asia. Piperaceae are less diverse in Africa with only two native species of Piper. This study examines the distribution of both Piper and Peperomia with representative samples from the Neotropics, Asia, Pacific Islands, and Africa. Molecular dating is used to place an age for the crown clades of Piper and Peperomia as well as ages for diversification within the clades. Both genera have origins in the late Cretaceous, but species level diversification occurred much later in the Tertiary. Biogeography of both genera are correlated with paleoclimate evidence to better explain the distribution and diversification of these large genera.