EXTINCTION, ECOLOGICAL OPPORTUNITY, AND THE ORIGINS OF GLOBAL SNAKE DIVERSITY
Article first published online: 2 SEP 2011
© 2011 The Author(s). Evolution © 2011 The Society for the Study of Evolution.
Volume 66, Issue 1, pages 163–178, January 2012
How to Cite
Pyron, R. A. and Burbrink, F. T. (2012), EXTINCTION, ECOLOGICAL OPPORTUNITY, AND THE ORIGINS OF GLOBAL SNAKE DIVERSITY. Evolution, 66: 163–178. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2011.01437.x
- Issue published online: 3 JAN 2012
- Article first published online: 2 SEP 2011
- Accepted manuscript online: 11 AUG 2011 07:47PM EST
- Received November 14, 2010, Accepted June 20, 2011, Data Archived: Dryad doi:10.5061/dryad.63kf4
- Clade size;
- diversification rates;
- diversity regulation;
- ecological limits;
- global biodiversity;
Snake diversity varies by at least two orders of magnitude among extant lineages, with numerous groups containing only one or two species, and several young clades exhibiting exceptional richness (>700 taxa). With a phylogeny containing all known families and subfamilies, we find that these patterns cannot be explained by background rates of speciation and extinction. The majority of diversity appears to derive from a radiation within the superfamily Colubroidea, potentially stemming from the colonization of new areas and the evolution of advanced venom-delivery systems. In contrast, negative relationships between clade age, clade size, and diversification rate suggest the potential for possible bias in estimated diversification rates, interpreted by some recent authors as support for ecologically mediated limits on diversity. However, evidence from the fossil record indicates that numerous lineages were far more diverse in the past, and that extinction has had an important impact on extant diversity patterns. Thus, failure to adequately account for extinction appears to prevent both rate- and diversity-limited models from fully characterizing richness dynamics in snakes. We suggest that clade-level extinction may provide a key mechanism for explaining negative or hump-shaped relationships between clade age and diversity, and the prevalence of ancient, species-poor lineages in numerous groups.