Molecular evolutionary rates are not correlated with temperature and latitude in Squamata: an exception to the metabolic theory of ecology?

BMC Evol Biol. 2016 May 20;16:95. doi: 10.1186/s12862-016-0666-4.


Background: The metabolic theory of ecology stipulates that molecular evolutionary rates should correlate with temperature and latitude in ectothermic organisms. Previous studies have shown that most groups of vertebrates, such as amphibians, turtles and even endothermic mammals, have higher molecular evolutionary rates in regions where temperature is high. However, the association between molecular evolutionary rates and temperature or latitude has never been tested in Squamata.

Results: We used a large dataset including the spatial distributions and environmental variables for 1,651 species of Squamata and compared the contrast of the rates of molecular evolution with the contrast of temperature and latitude between sister species. Using major axis regressions and a new algorithm to choose independent sister species pairs, we found that temperature and absolute latitude were not associated with molecular evolutionary rates.

Conclusions: This absence of association in such a diverse ectothermic group questions the mechanisms explaining current pattern of species diversity in Squamata and challenges the presupposed universality of the metabolic theory of ecology.

Keywords: Diversity; Lizards; Mutation rate; Reptiles; Snakes; Speciation rate.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecology*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Geography*
  • Lizards / metabolism*
  • Lizards / physiology*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Phylogeny
  • Species Specificity
  • Temperature*