The Amazon rainforest contains 16,000 different tree species, and around 390 billion individual trees. This amazing region sustains the world’s highest tree diversity, but the origin of this diversity remains unclear.

For reasons unknown to the scientific community, some genera—or groups—of trees in the Amazon contain hundreds of species, while others do not.  The big mystery scientists wanted to solve was why do some genera contain an abnormally large amount of tree species? Puzzled researchers began to collect data, hoping that by understanding the speciation of some tree genera, they would unveil the reasons behind Amazon tree diversity.

Researchers recently published a study in the journal Ecology Letters containing their findings, highlighting the possibility that a “live fast, die young” life history strategy might explain tree diversity in the Amazon.

Of the tree genera in the Amazon that contain hundreds of species, many share a life history strategy that results in short generation times, meaning they live, reproduce, and die within a short period of time. This characteristic results in high diversification rates and high levels of species richness.

The hypothesis that high speciation rates of some tree genera is due to their life history strategies is a breakthrough for scientists researching Amazon tree diversity. Although there are still many unknown factors behind rainforest biodiversity, this study on tree speciation will provide future researchers with the data necessary to continue exploring mechanisms responsible for Amazon biodiversity.