Species richness varies dramatically among clades across the Tree of Life, by over a million-fold in some cases (e.g. placozoans versus arthropods). Two major explanations for differences in richness among clades are the clade-age hypothesis (i.e. species-rich clades are older) and the diversification-rate hypothesis (i.e. species-rich clades diversify more rapidly, where diversification rate is the net balance of speciation and extinction over time). Here, we examine patterns of variation in diversification rates across the Tree of Life. We address how rates vary across higher taxa, whether rates within higher taxa are related to the subclades within them, and how diversification rates of clades are related to their species richness. We find substantial variation in diversification rates, with rates in plants nearly twice as high as in animals, and rates in eukaryotes approximately 10-fold faster than prokaryotes. Rates for each kingdom-level clade are then significantly related to the subclades within them. Although caution is needed when interpreting relationships between diversification rates and richness, a positive relationship between the two is not inevitable. We find that variation in diversification rates seems to explain most variation in richness among clades across the Tree of Life, in contrast with the conclusions of previous studies.
Date made available2016

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