Eugenio Valderrama


Reserva Cerro el Inglés (Valle del Cauca/Chocó border, Colombia). Photo Maria Pinilla.

Email: Eugenio Valderrama

Phone: +44 (0)131 248 2899

Fax: +44 (0)131 248 2901

Research interests

I am interested in integrating evolutionary and ecological approaches to address the geographic, climatic and temporal factors shaping the evolutionary history of species. Specifically, I have been working on the phylogeography of Neotropical montane forest species based on phylogenetics, population genetics and spatial analyses.

Project summary

The high richness in tropical forest is not uniform with Africa being species-poor when compared to Southeast Asia and the Neotropics. Alwin Gentry proposed that the Neotropics are more species-rich because of recent speciation attributed to the opportunities for speciation that the uplift of the tropical Andes offered. In spite of the accumulating evidence supporting the importance of the Andean orogeny in the diversification of Neotropical organisms few attempts have been made to test Gentry’s “Andean orogeny” hypothesis. Gentry identified 'Andean centred genera' that contributed to the high species diversity in the Neotropics and cited the genus Renealmia (Zingiberaceae) as being a model example.

Reserva Cerro el Inglés (Valle del Cauca/Chocó border, Colombia). Photo Eugenio Valderrama.

The Amphi-Atlantic distributions of some tropical plant lineages are ideal scenarios to test the Andean orogeny hypothesis, where we could expect higher diversification rates in Neotropical lineages associated with the final Andean uplift periods than in the African distributed ones. Renealmia is unusually well-represented on both sides of the Atlantic with c. 15 species in Africa and 61 Andean centred taxa in the Neotropics. Although some evidence supporting the influence of Andean orogeny in the diversification of this genus is available, increased taxon sampling and molecular markers are needed to accurately compare the speciation rates between Neotropical and African lineages.

Renealmia sp., Lago Calima (Valle del Cauca, Colombia). Photo Eugenio Valderrama.

I aim to test Gentry’s hypothesis with several phylogeny based methods in Renealmia. I will first complete the taxon sampling in Renealmia and determine variable molecular markers to resolve the relationships among the species in the genus. Secondly I will test the Andean orogeny hypothesis by estimating diversification rates in the Neotropical and African lineages taking into account the stochasticity inherent to diversification processes. Finally I will gather available data from additional organisms distributed in the Neotropics and Africa with species-level phylogenies to test whether multiple lineages support the Andean orogeny hypothesis.

Reserva El Refugio (Valle del Cauca, Colombia). Photo Maria Pinilla.

Host Institutions

I am based in the RBGE Tropical diversity section (under the supervision of James Richardson) and the Institute of Evolutionary Biology of the University of Edinburgh (under the supervision of Graham Stone). Also, I am working in collaboration with the Laboratorio de Botánica y Sistemática of the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia.

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The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)