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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Jan 7;274(1606):43-52.

Macroevolutionary dynamics in environmental space and the latitudinal diversity gradient in New World birds.

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  • 1Departamento de Biologia Geral, ICB, Universidade Federal de Goiás, CP 131, 74.001-970 Goiânia, GO, Brasil. diniz@icb.ufg.br


Correlations between species richness and climate suggest non-random occupation of environmental space and niche evolution through time. However, the evolutionary mechanisms involved remain unresolved. Here, we partition the occupation of environmental space into intra- and inter-clade components to differentiate a model based on pure conservation of ancestral niches with higher diversification rates in the tropics, and an adaptive radiation model based on shifts in adaptive peaks at the family level allowing occupation of temperate regions. We examined these mechanisms using within- and among-family skewness components based on centroids of 3560 New World bird species across four environmental variables. We found that the accumulation of species in the tropics is a result of both processes. The components of adaptive radiation have family level skewness of species' distributions strongly structured in space, but not phylogenetically, according to the integrated analyses of spatial filters and phylogenetic eigenvectors. Moreover, stronger radiation components were found for energy variables, which are often used to argue for direct climatic effects on diversity. Thus, the correspondence between diversity and climate may be due to the conservation of ancestral tropical niches coupled with repeated broad shifts in adaptive peaks during birds' evolutionary history more than by higher diversification rates driven by more energy in the tropics.

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