158 research outputs found

    Conserving the Stage: Climate Change and the Geophysical Underpinnings of Species Diversity

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    Conservationists have proposed methods for adapting to climate change that assume species distributions are primarily explained by climate variables. The key idea is to use the understanding of species-climate relationships to map corridors and to identify regions of faunal stability or high species turnover. An alternative approach is to adopt an evolutionary timescale and ask ultimately what factors control total diversity, so that over the long run the major drivers of total species richness can be protected. Within a single climatic region, the temperate area encompassing all of the Northeastern U.S. and Maritime Canada, we hypothesized that geologic factors may take precedence over climate in explaining diversity patterns. If geophysical diversity does drive regional diversity, then conserving geophysical settings may offer an approach to conservation that protects diversity under both current and future climates. Here we tested how well geology predicts the species diversity of 14 US states and three Canadian provinces, using a comprehensive new spatial dataset. Results of linear regressions of species diversity on all possible combinations of 23 geophysical and climatic variables indicated that four geophysical factors; the number of geological classes, latitude, elevation range and the amount of calcareous bedrock, predicted species diversity with certainty (adj. R2 = 0.94). To confirm the species-geology relationships we ran an independent test using 18,700 location points for 885 rare species and found that 40% of the species were restricted to a single geology. Moreover, each geology class supported 5–95 endemic species and chi-square tests confirmed that calcareous bedrock and extreme elevations had significantly more rare species than expected by chance (P<0.0001), strongly corroborating the regression model. Our results suggest that protecting geophysical settings will conserve the stage for current and future biodiversity and may be a robust alternative to species-level predictions

    Terrestrialization, Miniaturization and Rates of Diversification in African Puddle Frogs (Anura: Phrynobatrachidae)

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    Terrestrialization, the evolution of non-aquatic oviposition, and miniaturization, the evolution of tiny adult body size, are recurring trends in amphibian evolution, but the relationships among the traits that characterize these phenomena are not well understood. Furthermore, these traits have been identified as possible “key innovations” that are predicted to increase rates of speciation in those lineages in which they evolve. We examine terrestrialization and miniaturization in sub-Saharan puddle frogs (Phrynobatrachidae) in a phylogenetic context to investigate the relationship between adaptation and diversification through time. We use relative dating techniques to ascertain if character trait shifts are associated with increased diversification rates, and we evaluate the likelihood that a single temporal event can explain the evolution of those traits. Results indicate alternate reproductive modes evolved independently in Phrynobatrachus at least seven times, including terrestrial deposition of eggs and terrestrial, non-feeding larvae. These shifts towards alternate reproductive modes are not linked to a common temporal event. Contrary to the “key innovations” hypothesis, clades that exhibit alternate reproductive modes have lower diversification rates than those that deposit eggs aquatically. Adult habitat, pedal webbing and body size have no effect on diversification rates. Though these traits putatively identified as key innovations for Phrynobatrachus do not seem to be associated with increased speciation rates, they may still provide opportunities to extend into new niches, thus increasing overall diversity

    Late Cretaceous Vicariance in Gondwanan Amphibians

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    Overseas dispersals are often invoked when Southern Hemisphere terrestrial and freshwater organism phylogenies do not fit the sequence or timing of Gondwana fragmentation. We used dispersal-vicariance analyses and molecular timetrees to show that two species-rich frog groups, Microhylidae and Natatanura, display congruent patterns of spatial and temporal diversification among Gondwanan plates in the Late Cretaceous, long after the presumed major tectonic break-up events. Because amphibians are notoriously salt-intolerant, these analogies are best explained by simultaneous vicariance, rather than by oceanic dispersal. Hence our results imply Late Cretaceous connections between most adjacent Gondwanan landmasses, an essential concept for biogeographic and palaeomap reconstructions

    Ecological Guild Evolution and the Discovery of the World's Smallest Vertebrate

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    Living vertebrates vary drastically in body size, yet few taxa reach the extremely minute size of some frogs and teleost fish. Here we describe two new species of diminutive terrestrial frogs from the megadiverse hotspot island of New Guinea, one of which represents the smallest known vertebrate species, attaining an average body size of only 7.7 mm. Both new species are members of the recently described genus Paedophryne, the four species of which are all among the ten smallest known frog species, making Paedophryne the most diminutive genus of anurans. This discovery highlights intriguing ecological similarities among the numerous independent origins of diminutive anurans, suggesting that minute frogs are not mere oddities, but represent a previously unrecognized ecological guild