Microhabitat and Climatic Niche Change Explain Patterns of Diversification among Frog Families

Am Nat. 2017 Jul;190(1):29-44. doi: 10.1086/692065. Epub 2017 May 11.


A major goal of ecology and evolutionary biology is to explain patterns of species richness among clades. Differences in rates of net diversification (speciation minus extinction over time) may often explain these patterns, but the factors that drive variation in diversification rates remain uncertain. Three important candidates are climatic niche position (e.g., whether clades are primarily temperate or tropical), rates of climatic niche change among species within clades, and microhabitat (e.g., aquatic, terrestrial, arboreal). The first two factors have been tested separately in several studies, but the relative importance of all three is largely unknown. Here we explore the correlates of diversification among families of frogs, which collectively represent ∼88% of amphibian species. We assemble and analyze data on phylogeny, climate, and microhabitat for thousands of species. We find that the best-fitting phylogenetic multiple regression model includes all three types of variables: microhabitat, rates of climatic niche change, and climatic niche position. This model explains 67% of the variation in diversification rates among frog families, with arboreal microhabitat explaining ∼31%, niche rates ∼25%, and climatic niche position ∼11%. Surprisingly, we show that microhabitat can have a much stronger influence on diversification than climatic niche position or rates of climatic niche change.

Keywords: Anura; amphibians; climatic niche; diversification; ecology; evolution; phylogeny.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anura*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Climate Change*
  • Ecosystem
  • Genetic Speciation
  • Phylogeny

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.3p46b