Thursday, January 14, 2016

First EXEB-meeting in 2016: on speciation, ecological opportunity and latitude


Crab spider (Misumenia vatia) with prey. Photo: Erik Svensson

Posted by Erik Svensson 

"Evolution in Sweden 2016" is now over, and in my opinion it was a great success. You can see photos from this meeting here, and we can also briefly summarize our general reflections about this meeting on the first EXEB-meeting, which I post information about below. 

On this first EXEB-meeting of 2016, I want to discuss a recent paper published as a "Presidential Adress" in American Naturalist by Dolph Schluter, entitled "Speciation, ecological opportunity and latitude". 

I saw Dolph give a talk about this last year at a speciation-meeting in California, and I think that he is a very thoughtful scientist who has stimulated my thinking and influenced many other ecologists and evolutionary biologists. Hopefully, we will have a good discussion about this paper. But as usual, we will start the meeting with some general reflections, summary of impressions of "Evolution in Sweden 2016" and we can also hear a bit from Tobias and Nathalie's trip to Australia, as well as mine, Katie's and John's trip to Argentina. I might even bring some pictures to show. 

Time: Tuesday, January 19, at 10.00

Where: "Argumentet", 2nd floor, Ecology Building

Abstract: Evolutionary hypotheses to explain the greater numbers of species in the tropics than the temperate zone include greater age and area, higher temperature and metabolic rates, and greater ecological opportunity. These ideas make contrasting predictions about the relationship between speciation processes and latitude, which I elaborate and evaluate. Available data suggest that per capita speciation rates are currently highest in the temperate zone and that diversification rates (speciation minus extinction) are similar between latitudes. In contrast, clades whose oldest analyzed dates precede the Eocene thermal maximum, when the extent of the tropics was much greater than today, tend to show highest speciation and diversification rates in the tropics. These findings are consistent with age and area, which is alone among hypotheses in predicting a time trend. Higher recent speciation rates in the temperate zone than the tropics suggest an additional response to high ecological opportunity associated with low species diversity. These broad patterns are compelling but provide limited insights into underlying mechanisms, arguing that studies of speciation processes along the latitudinal gradient will be vital. Using threespine stickleback in depauperate northern lakes as an example, I show how high ecological opportunity can lead to rapid speciation. The results support a role for ecological opportunity in speciation, but its importance in the evolution of the latitudinal gradient remains uncertain. I conclude that per capita evolutionary rates are no longer higher in the tropics than the temperate zone. Nevertheless, the vast numbers of species that have already accumulated in the tropics ensure that total rate of species production remains highest there. Thus, tropical evolutionary momentum helps to perpetuate the steep latitudinal biodiversity gradient.

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