Genomic data are rapidly resolving the tree of living species calibrated to time, the timetree of life, which will provide a framework for research in diverse fields of science. Previous analyses of taxonomically restricted timetrees have found a decline in the rate of diversification in many groups of organisms, often attributed to ecological interactions among species. Here, we have synthesized a global timetree of life from 2,274 studies representing 50,632 species and examined the pattern and rate of diversification as well as the timing of speciation. We found that species diversity has been mostly expanding overall and in many smaller groups of species, and that the rate of diversification in eukaryotes has been mostly constant. We also identified, and avoided, potential biases that may have influenced previous analyses of diversification including low levels of taxon sampling, small clade size, and the inclusion of stem branches in clade analyses. We found consistency in time-to-speciation among plants and animals, ∼2 My, as measured by intervals of crown and stem species times. Together, this clock-like change at different levels suggests that speciation and diversification are processes dominated by random events and that adaptive change is largely a separate process.
Keywords: biodiversity; diversification; speciation; timetree; tree of life.
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.