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Phylogenetic patterns in zopherine beetles are related to ecological niche width and dispersal limitation


Andrés Baselga, Fax: +34 981596904; E-mail:


Niche conservatism has been proposed as the mechanism driving speciation in temperate montane clades through range fragmentation during climatic oscillations. Thus, a negative relationship between speciation rates and niche width is expected. Here, we test this prediction using American zopherine beetles. Our phylogenetic analyses recovered two clades in addition to that of the genus Zopherus: the genera Verodes and Phloeodes, which originated most likely in the Eocene, and diversified during the Miocene and the Pliocene. The assessment of clade niche width in relation to clade diversity supported the proposition of narrow niches leading to a higher probability of range fragmentation during climatic oscillations, thus increasing speciation. Additionally, almost all current populations of Phloeodes and Verodes are located within regions that retained favourable climatic conditions across warm and cold Pleistocene periods, suggesting that dispersal limitation is a strong factor controlling clade distribution. In sum, our results suggest that (i) niche width is a major determinant of the probability of speciation in temperate montane clades, by controlling the probability of potential range fragmentation and (ii) dispersal limitation is also a major determinant of the speciation process, by increasing the fragmentation of realized ranges even when potential distributions are cyclically fused during climatic oscillations. When dispersal limitation is extreme, as in zopherine beetles, populations persist just in those areas that have retained suitable conditions during extremes of past climatic oscillations. Paradoxically, this relict condition confers zopherine beetles great resilience for facing future climate change.