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Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Oct 22;275(1649):2363-71. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0630.

Density-dependent diversification in North American wood warblers.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Evidence from both molecular phylogenies and the fossil record suggests that rates of species diversification often decline through time during evolutionary radiations. One proposed explanation for this pattern is ecological opportunity, whereby an initial abundance of resources and lack of potential competitors facilitate rapid diversification. This model predicts density-dependent declines in diversification rates, but has not been formally tested in any species-level radiation. Here we develop a new conceptual framework that distinguishes density dependence from alternative processes that also produce temporally declining diversification, and we demonstrate this approach using a new phylogeny of North American Dendroica wood warblers. We show that explosive lineage accumulation early in the history of this avian radiation is best explained by a density-dependent diversification process. Our results suggest that the tempo of wood warbler diversification was mediated by ecological interactions among species and that lineage and ecological diversification in this group are coupled, as predicted under the ecological opportunity model.

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