The mechanisms underlying the taxonomic assembly of montane biotas are still poorly understood. Most hypotheses have assumed that the diversification of montane biotas is loosely coupled to Earth history and have emphasized instead the importance of multiple long-distance dispersal events and biotic interactions, particularly competition, for structuring the taxonomic composition and distribution of montane biotic elements. Here we use phylogenetic and biogeographic analyses of species in the parrot genus Pionus to demonstrate that standing diversity within montane lineages is directly attributable to events of Earth history. Phylogenetic relationships confirm three independent biogeographic disjunctions between montane lineages, on one hand, and lowland dry-forest/wet-forest lineages on the other. Temporal estimates of lineage diversification are consistent with the interpretation that the three lineages were transported passively to high elevations by mountain building, and that subsequent diversification within the Andes was driven primarily by Pleistocene climatic oscillations and their large-scale effects on habitat change. These results support a mechanistic link between diversification and Earth history and have general implications for explaining high altitudinal disjuncts and the origin of montane biotas.
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