Background: The high diversity of New Caledonia has traditionally been seen as a result of its Gondwanan origin, old age and long isolation under stable climatic conditions (the museum model). Under this scenario, we would expect species diversification to follow a constant rate model. Alternatively, if New Caledonia was completely submerged after its breakup from Gondwana, as geological evidence indicates, we would expect species diversification to show a characteristic slowdown over time according to a diversity-dependent model where species accumulation decreases as space is filled.
Results: We reanalyze available datasets for New Caledonia and reconstruct the phylogenies using standardized methodologies; we use two ultrametrization alternatives; and we take into account phylogenetic uncertainty as well as incomplete taxon sampling when conducting diversification rate constancy tests. Our results indicate that for 8 of the 9 available phylogenies, there is significant evidence for a diversification slowdown. For the youngest group under investigation, the apparent lack of evidence of a significant slowdown could be because we are still observing the early phase of a logistic growth (i.e. the clade may be too young to exhibit a change in diversification rates).
Conclusions: Our results are consistent with a diversity-dependent model of diversification in New Caledonia. In opposition to the museum model, our results provide additional evidence that original New Caledonian biodiversity was wiped out during the episode of submersion, providing an open and empty space facilitating evolutionary radiations.