The term “cradle of speciation” describes an area where several new species have evolved over the years. High levels of biodiversity and a wide variety of ecosystems, such as mountains, islands, and rainforests, are frequent characteristics of these areas.
India is known for its remarkable biodiversity, making it a cradle of speciation. The country has a unique geographical location, lying at the crossroads of three biogeographical regions: the Palearctic, the Oriental, and the Ethiopian regions. This unique position, coupled with diverse climatic conditions, has contributed to the evolution and diversification of several endemic species in India.
One of the most prominent regions of speciation in India is the Western Ghats, a 1,600 km long mountain range that runs along the western coast of the country.
The Western Ghats are recognized as a biodiversity hotspot and are home to an estimated 5,000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, and over 200 reptile species. The Western Ghats have a long history of isolation and have been isolated from other regions of India for over 150 million years. This has allowed for the evolution of a large number of endemic species, with several new species being discovered every year. The high level of endemism in the Western Ghats is due to the diverse topography, unique microclimates, and geological history of the region.
Source: India Climate Dialogue
Another region of speciation in India is the Eastern Himalayas, which cover the north-eastern states of India. The Eastern Himalayas are home to a large number of endemic species, including the red panda, clouded leopard, and the Himalayan musk deer. The region is also home to several new species of birds and reptiles that have been discovered in recent years. The Eastern Himalayas are known for their rugged terrain, high altitude, and extreme weather conditions, which have contributed to the evolution of unique species in the region. The region also has a rich cultural heritage and is home to several indigenous communities that have coexisted with nature for centuries.
Source: World Atlas
Therefore, India is a cradle of speciation, with several regions contributing to the evolution and diversification of endemic species. The Western Ghats and the Eastern Himalayas are two prominent regions that have played a significant role in the evolution of unique species in the country. Protecting these regions and their biodiversity is crucial for the conservation of India’s unique flora and fauna.
- Duane D. McKenna & Brian D. Farrell, “Tropical forests are both evolutionary cradles and museums of leaf beetle diversity”. PNAS, May 26, 2006.
- S. Gopikrishna Warrier, “Endemic trees in Western Ghats show climate resilience”. India Climate Dialogue, May 11, 2016.
- Suresh K. Rana & Trevor D, “Plant species richness across the Himalaya driven by evolutionary history and current climate”. ESA Journals, 21 November, 2019.