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Climate effects on amphibian distributions depend on phylogenetic resolution and the biogeographical history of taxa


  • Editor: Marcel Cardillo



Disentangling the effects of climate and historical factors on biodiversity distribution remains a challenge for biogeographers. Here, we provide an analytical framework to discriminate the contributions of contemporary climate and the biogeographical history of taxa to the geographical distributions of phylogenetic lineages. Furthermore, we evaluate the constraint that the biogeographical history of clades exerts on the association between climate and clade distribution, i.e. the historical legacy of climatic effects. As a case study, we analysed the distributions of amphibian lineages across the Americas.


The Americas.


We tallied the number of amphibian species per genus in each of 262 ecoregions. Each ecoregion was described by the composition of phylogenetic lineages using phylogenetic fuzzy weighting. The composition of amphibian genera and phylogenetic clades represented the distributions of shallow and deep phylogenetic nodes, respectively. We characterized each ecoregion by the biogeographical history of amphibian taxa and its current climate, whose influences on shallow and deep phylogenetic nodes were analysed using variation partitioning analysis.


The association between climate and the distributions of deep phylogenetic nodes showed a strong historical legacy, although the distribution of amphibian genera was mostly associated with climate. Hyloidea were associated with a Gondwanan origin and higher annual mean temperatures, whereas other clades (e.g. Caudata) were related to a Laurasian origin and higher temperature seasonality. Microhylidae were related to occurrence in the Early Jurassic in Gondwana and recent occurrence in the Neotropics.

Main conclusions

Biogeographical patterns can be thought of as the net outcome of evolutionary, historical and ecological processes. Although temperature is likely to affect the ecology of amphibians, the effects of climate on the distributions of deep phylogenetic nodes were strongly constrained by the biogeographical history of clades. Nevertheless, local, climatically driven processes are likely to influence the distributions of shallow phylogenetic nodes. The historical biogeography of clades might help to explain the interplay between evolutionary and environmental processes in determining assembly patterns found elsewhere.

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