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Keywords:

  • Adaptive radiation;
  • macroevolution;
  • morphological evolution;
  • phylogenetics;
  • speciation

The tempo and mode of species diversification and phenotypic evolution vary widely across the tree of life, yet the relationship between these processes is poorly known. Previous tests of the relationship between rates of phenotypic evolution and rates of species diversification have assumed that species richness increases continuously through time. If this assumption is violated, simple phylogenetic estimates of net diversification rate may bear no relationship to processes that influence the distribution of species richness among clades. Here, we demonstrate that the variation in species richness among plethodontid salamander clades is unlikely to have resulted from simple time-dependent processes, leading to fundamentally different conclusions about the relationship between rates of phenotypic evolution and species diversification. Morphological evolutionary rates of both size and shape evolution are correlated with clade species richness, but are uncorrelated with simple estimators of net diversification that assume constancy of rates through time. This coupling between species diversification and phenotypic evolution is consistent with the hypothesis that clades with high rates of morphological trait evolution may diversify more than clades with low rates. Our results indicate that assumptions about underlying processes of diversity regulation have important consequences for interpreting macroevolutionary patterns.