Phylogenetic approaches for studying diversification

Ecol Lett. 2014 Apr;17(4):508-25. doi: 10.1111/ele.12251. Epub 2014 Feb 7.


Estimating rates of speciation and extinction, and understanding how and why they vary over evolutionary time, geographical space and species groups, is a key to understanding how ecological and evolutionary processes generate biological diversity. Such inferences will increasingly benefit from phylogenetic approaches given the ever-accelerating rates of genetic sequencing. In the last few years, models designed to understand diversification from phylogenetic data have advanced significantly. Here, I review these approaches and what they have revealed about diversification in the natural world. I focus on key distinctions between different models, and I clarify the conclusions that can be drawn from each model. I identify promising areas for future research. A major challenge ahead is to develop models that more explicitly take into account ecology, in particular the interaction of species with each other and with their environment. This will not only improve our understanding of diversification; it will also present a new perspective to the use of phylogenies in community ecology, the science of interaction networks and conservation biology, and might shift the current focus in ecology on equilibrium biodiversity theories to non-equilibrium theories recognising the crucial role of history.

Keywords: Birth-death models; cladogenesis; diversity dynamics; extinction; speciation; stochastic biodiversity models.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity*
  • Genetic Speciation
  • Models, Biological*
  • Phylogeny*