Dynamics of neotropical plant diversification

Geotemporal patterns of plant species diversification and the causes of differences in species richness among clades and geographic areas remain poorly understood. We are investigating patterns and processes underlying the historical assembly of plant species diversity in the neotropics, the most diverse continent where several of the world’s hottest plant diversity hotspots occur. We are using time-calibrated species-level phylogenies for a number of legume study groups, alongside geographical and broad-scale ecological data to investigate the dynamics of diversification. Recent work has looked at plant diversification in the high elevation Andes, seasonally dry neotropical forests, and the Cerrado biome of central South America. Accurate delimitation of species, via revisionary taxonomy and taxonomic monography are pivotal for the large scale evolutionary studies that we are undertaking, and several taxonomic monographic projects are in progress.


Recent Publications

  • Large-scale genomic sequence data resolve the deepest divergences in the legume phylogeny and support a near-simultaneous evolutionary origin of all six subfamilies
    Koenen, Erik J. M.; Ojeda, Dario, I; Steeves, Royce; Migliore, Jeremy; Bakker, Freek T.; Wieringa, Jan J.; Kidner, Catherine; Hardy, Olivier J.; Pennington, R. Toby; Bruneau, Anne; Hughes, Colin E
    New Phytologist,  DOI: 10.1111/nph.16290
  • Extrafloral nectaries in Leguminosae: phylogenetic distribution, morphological diversity and evolution
    Marazzi, Brigitte; Maria Gonzalez, Ana; Delgado-Salinas, Alfonso; Luckow, Melissa A.; Ringelberg, Jens J.; Hughes CE
    Australian Systematic Botany,  DOI: 10.1071/SB19012
  • Island woodiness underpins accelerated disparification in plant radiations
    Nurk, NM; Atchison, GW; Hughes, CE
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 224 (1):518-531; 10.1111/nph.15797 OCT 2019
  • The evolutionary history of Leucaena: Recent research, new genomic resources and future directions
    Abair, A; Hughes, CE; Bailey, CD
    TROPICAL GRASSLANDS-FORRAJES TROPICALES, 7 (2):65-73; 1 10.17138/TGFT(7)65-73 FEB-MAY 2019
  • Global Succulent Biome phylogenetic conservatism across the pantropical Caesalpinia Group (Leguminosae)
    Gagnon, E; Ringelberg, JJ; Bruneau, A; Lewis, GP; Hughes, CE
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 222 (4):1994-2008; 10.1111/nph.15633 JUN 2019
  • Island woodiness underpins accelerated disparification in plant radiations
    NM Nürk, GW Atchison, CE Hughes
    New Phytologist https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.15797 2019
  • PacBio-Based Mitochondrial Genome Assembly of Leucaena trichandra (Leguminosae) and an Intrageneric Assessment of Mitochondrial RNA Editing
    Kovar, L; Nageswara-Rao, M; Ortega-Rodriguez, S; Dugas, DV; Straub, S; Cronn, R; Strickler, SR; Hughes, CE; Hanley, KA; Rodriguez, DN; Langhorst, BW; Dimalanta, ET; Bailey, CD
    GENOME BIOLOGY AND EVOLUTION, 10 (9):2501-2517; 10.1093/gbe/evy179 SEP 2018
  • The acaulescent rosette species of Lupinus L. (Fabaceae) of Colombia and Ecuador including a new species from Colombia
    Contreras-Ortiz, N; Jara-Munoz, OA; Hughes, CE
    PHYTOTAXA, 364 (1):61-70; 10.11646/phytotaxa.364.1.3 AUG 7 2018
  • DNA Sequence Variation among Conspecific Accessions of the Legume Coursetia caribaea Reveals Geographically Localized Clades Here Ranked as Species
    Lavin, M; Pennington, RT; Hughes, CE; Lewis, GP; Delgado-Salinas, A; de Stefano, RD; de Queiroz, LP; Cardoso, D; Wojciechowski, MF
    SYSTEMATIC BOTANY, 43 (3):664-675; 10.1600/036364418X697382 JUL-SEP 2018
  • Pleistocene glacial cycles drive isolation, gene flow and speciation in the high-elevation Andes
    Nevado, B; Contreras-Ortiz, N; Hughes, C; Filatov, DA
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST 219(2): 779-793 DOI: 10.1111/nph.15243  JUL 2018
  • Convergent evolution of high elevation plant growth forms and geographically structured variation in Andean Lupinus (Fabaceae)
    Contreras-Ortiz, Natalia; Atchison, Guy W.; Hughes, Colin E.; Madrinan, Santiago
    BOTANICAL JOURNAL OF THE LINNEAN SOCIETY, 187 (1):118-136; 10.1093/botlinnean/box095 MAY 2018
Colin Hughes

Dr. Colin Hughes
University of Zurich
Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany
8008 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)44 634 84 41

Research topics

  • Systematics and biogeography of Legumes
  • Taxonomic monographs of Leucaena & Lupinus
  • Historical assembly of neotropical plant species diversity
  • Polyploidy and hybridization in Leucaena
  • Early crop domestication in Mesoamerica and the Andes



  • Plant taxonomy
  • Systematic botany
  • Plant phylogenetics
  • Multi-locus gene tree approaches to interspecific hybridization
  • Historical biogeography
  • Crop evolution and domestication