Common frog (Rana temporaria). Photo by Erik Svensson
Posted by Erik Svensson
It is spring time, and some of you have already noted the frogs that mate in the pond outside the Ecology Building. Then it seems highly timely to discuss some classical problems in ecology and evolutionary biology that have been subject to some previous lab-meetings, but which continue to fascinate many (including me): why are there more species in the tropics?
Is it because of evolutionary history, such as higher speciation rates in the tropics or lower extinction rates over millions of years? Or is it mainly due to ecological factors such as more energy through the sun and higher humidity in the tropics? Or a combination of ecological and evolutionary factors? What about the roles of niche conservatism and diversity dependence, and how do these affect tropical and temperate diversity?
We will discuss a recent paper about this by Alexander Pyron and John Wiens about latitudinal diversity gradients in amphibians in relation to speciation, extinction and phylogeny. You can find the paper here, and it is a phylogenetic comparative study, and the abstract is appended below.
When: Tuesday, April 15, at 10.30
Where: "Argumentet", 2nd floor, Ecology Building.
Many groups show higher species richness in tropical regions but the underlying causes remain unclear. Despite many competing hypotheses to explain latitudinal diversity gradients, only three processes can directly change species richness across regions: speciation, extinction and dispersal. These processes can be addressed most powerfully using large-scale phylogenetic approaches, but most previous studies have focused on small groups and recent time scales, or did not separate speciation and extinction rates. We investigate the origins of high tropical diversity in amphibians, applying new phylogenetic comparative methods to a tree of 2871 species. Our results show that high tropical diversity is explained by higher speciation in the tropics, higher extinction in temperate regions and limited dispersal out of the tropics compared with colonization of the tropics from temperate regions. These patterns are strongly associated with climate-related variables such as temperature, precipitation and ecosystem energy. Results from models of diversity dependence in speciation rate suggest that temperate clades may have lower carrying capacities and may be more saturated (closer to carrying capacity) than tropical clades. Furthermore, we estimate strikingly low tropical extinction rates over geological time scales, in stark contrast to the dramatic losses of diversity occurring in tropical regions presently.