Diatoms diversify and turn over faster in freshwater than marine environments

Evolution. 2019 Dec;73(12):2497-2511. doi: 10.1111/evo.13832. Epub 2019 Sep 5.


Many clades that span the marine-freshwater boundary are disproportionately more diverse in the younger, shorter lived, and scarcer freshwater environments than they are in the marine realm. This disparity is thought to be related to differences in diversification rates between marine and freshwater lineages. However, marine and freshwaters are not ecologically homogeneous, so the study of diversification across the salinity divide should also account for other potentially interacting variables. In diatoms, freshwater and substrate-associated (benthic) lineages are several-fold more diverse than their marine and suspended (planktonic) counterparts. These imbalances provide an excellent system to understand whether these variables interact with diversification. Using multistate hidden-state speciation and extinction models, we found that freshwater lineages diversify faster than marine lineages regardless of whether they inhabit the plankton or the benthos. Freshwater lineages also had higher turnover rates (speciation + extinction), suggesting that habitat transitions impact speciation and extinction rates jointly. The plankton-benthos contrast was also consistent with state-dependent diversification, but with modest differences in diversification and turnover rates. Asymmetric and bidirectional transitions rejected hypotheses about the plankton and freshwaters as absorbing, inescapable habitats. Our results further suggest that the high turnover rate of freshwater diatoms is related to high turnover of freshwater systems themselves.

Keywords: Diatoms; salinity gradient; species turnover; state speciation and extinction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity
  • Diatoms / genetics*
  • Ecosystem
  • Fresh Water*
  • Genetic Speciation
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Phylogeny
  • Seawater*
  • Time Factors