New Scantlebury Paper on Madagascan Diversification

Posted on Posted in Lab News, Research Updates

home_coverDan Scantlebury’s paper on Madagascan diversification was just published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The cover features Dan’s photo of an undescribed species of Pareodura licking its eye. Congratulations to Dan on a job well done. Here’s the abstract of Dan’s paper: “The evolutionary origins of Madagascar’s biodiversity remain mysterious despite the fact that relative to land area, there is no other place with consistently high levels of species richness and endemism across a range of taxonomic levels. Most efforts to explain diversification on the island have focused on geographical models of speciation, but recent studies have begun to address the island’s accumulation of species through time, although with conflicting results. Prevailing hypotheses for diversification on the island involve either constant diversification rates or scenarios where rates decline through time. Using relative-time-calibrated phylogenies for seven endemic vertebrate clades and a model-fitting framework, I find evidence that diversification rates have declined through time on Madagascar. I show that diversification rates have clearly declined throughout the history of each clade, and models invoking diversity-dependent reductions to diversification rates best explain the diversification histories for each clade. These results are consistent with the ecological theory of adaptive radiation, and, coupled with ancillary observations about ecomorphological and life-history evolution, strongly suggest that adaptive radiation was an important formative process for one of the most species-rich regions on the Earth. These results cast the Malagasy biota in a new light and provide macroevolutionary justification for conservation initiatives.”