Are rates of species diversification correlated with rates of morphological evolution?

Dean C. Adams, Chelsea M. Berns, Kenneth H. Kozak, John J. Wiens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

210 Scopus citations


Some major evolutionary theories predict a relationship between rates of proliferation of new species (species diversification) and rates of morphological divergence between them. However, this relationship has not been rigorously tested using phylogeny-based approaches. Here, we test this relationship with morphological and phylogenetic data from 190 species of plethodontid salamanders. Surprisingly, we find that rates of species diversification and morphological evolution are not significantly correlated, such that rapid diversification can occur with little morphological change, and vice versa. We also find that most clades have undergone remarkably similar patterns of morphological evolution (despite extensive sympatry) and that those relatively novel phenotypes are not associated with rapid diversification. Finally, we find a strong relationship between rates of size and shape evolution, which has not been previously tested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2729-2738
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1668
StatePublished - Aug 7 2009


  • Diversification
  • Evolution
  • Morphology
  • Phylogeny
  • Salamanders
  • Speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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