Thursday, November 02, 2006

Whay Are There More Species In The Tropics?

Evolutionary and Ecological Causes of the Latitudinal Diversity Gradient in Hylid Frogs: Treefrog Trees Unearth the Roots of High Tropical Diversity. 2006. John J. Wiens et al. The American Naturalist 168: 579-596.

From thr U Chicago press release:

In a paper appearing in the November issue of The American Naturalist, John Wiens and a group of researchers have shown that, contrary to expectations, species seem to evolve at similar rates in tropical and temperate regions. What causes the difference in species numbers between tropical and temperate regions is not something special about the tropics that leads to more rapid speciation, but rather that the temperate areas were colonized more recently, leaving less time for species to originate and accumulate in these regions.

The researchers studied the causes of high tropical species richness in treefrogs in the Americas. Combining analyses of evolutionary trees based on DNA sequences with GIS-based methods for analyzing the effects of climate on species distributions, the researchers found no relationship between how quickly species originate within a group and whether that group is tropical or temperate.

However, they did find a strong relationship between when each region was colonized and the number of species there today. Thus, the high species richness of tropical regions seems to be explained by the ancient origin of many groups in the tropics, more recent colonization of temperate regions, and by the inability of most tropical species to tolerate the variable temperatures of temperate areas. Image Link