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Title: On the processes generating latitudinal richness gradients: identifying diagnostic patterns and predictions

Many processes have been put forward to explain the latitudinal gradient in species richness. Here, we use a simulation model to examine four of the most common hypotheses and identify patterns that might be diagnostic of those four hypotheses. The hypotheses examined include (1) tropical niche conservatism, or the idea that the tropics are more diverse because a tropical clade origin has allowed more time for diversification in the tropics and has resulted in few species adapted to extra-tropical climates. (2) The productivity, or energetic constraints, hypothesis suggests that species richness is limited by the amount of biologically available energy in a region. (3) The tropical stability hypothesis argues that major climatic fluctuations and glacial cycles in extratropical regions have led to greater extinction rates and less opportunity for specialization relative to the tropics. (4) Finally, the speciation rates hypothesis suggests that the latitudinal richness gradient arises from a parallel gradient in rates of speciation. We found that tropical niche conservatism can be distinguished from the other three scenarios by phylogenies which are more balanced than expected, no relationship between mean root distance and richness across regions, and a homogeneous rate of speciation across clades and through time. The energymore » gradient, speciation gradient, and disturbance gradient scenarios all exhibited phylogenies which were more imbalanced than expected, showed a negative relationship between mean root distance and richness, and diversity-dependence of speciation rate estimates through time. Using Bayesian Analysis of Macroevolutionary Mixtures on the simulated phylogenies, we found that the relationship between speciation rates and latitude could distinguish among these three scenarios. We emphasize the importance of considering multiple hypotheses and focusing on diagnostic predictions instead of predictions that are consistent with more than one hypothesis.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Frontiers in Genetics, 5:Article No. 420
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
biodiversity; disturbance; diversification; latitudinal gradient; simulation; speciation rate; species richness; zero sum