Dipterocarpaceae is a family of 17 genera and approximately 500 species of mainly tropical lowland rainforest trees. The family name, from the type genus Dipterocarpus, is derived from Greek (di = two, pteron = wing and karpos = fruit) and refers to the two-winged fruit. The largest genera are Shorea (196 species), Hopea (104 species), Dipterocarpus (70 species), and Vatica (65 species). Many are large forest emergent species, typically reaching heights of 40-70 m tall, some even over 80 m (in the genera Dryobalanops, Hopea and Shorea), with the tallest known living specimen (Shorea faguetiana) 88.3 m tall. The species of this family are of major importance in the timber trade. Their distribution is pantropical, from northern South America to Africa, the Seychelles, India, Indochina and Malaysia, with the greatest diversity and abundance in eastern Malaysia. Some species are now endangered as a result of overcutting, extensive illegal logging and habitat conversion. They provide valuable woods, aromatic essential oils, balsam, resins and are a source for plywood.
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A recent genetic study found that the Asian dipterocarps share a common ancestor with the Sarcolaenaceae, a tree family endemic to Madagascar. This suggests that ancestor of the Dipterocarps originated in the southern supercontinent of Gondwana, and that the common ancestor of the Asian dipterocarps and the Sarcolaenaceae was found in the India-Madagascar-Seychelles land mass millions of years ago, and were carried northward by India, which later collided with Asia and allowed the dipterocarps to spread across Southeast Asia and Malaysia.