Climate, niche evolution, and diversification of the "bird-cage" evening primroses (Oenothera, sections Anogra and Kleinia)

Margaret E.K. Evans, Stephen A. Smith, Rachel S. Flynn, Michael J. Donoghue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

220 Scopus citations


We integrate climatic niche models and dated phylogenies to characterize the evolution of climatic niches in Oenothera sections Anogra and Kleinia (Onagraceae), and from that we make inferences on diversification in relation to climate. The evolution of climatic tolerances in Anogra + Kleinia has been heterogeneous, across phylogenetic groups and across different dimensions of climate. All the extant taxa occur in semiarid to arid conditions (annual precipitation of 10.1-49.1 cm and high temperatures in the warmest month of 28.5°-40.1°C), but there is striking variation among taxa in their climatic tolerances, especially temperature (minimum temperatures in the coldest month of -14.0° to 5.3°C) and summer versus winter precipitation (precipitation in the warmest quarter of 0.6-19.4 cm). Climatic disparity is especially pronounced in two subclades (californica, deltoides) that radiated in the southwestern United States and California, apparently including both divergent and convergent evolution of climatic tolerances. This niche evolution is remarkable, given the probable timescale of the radiation (∼1 million years). We suggest that the spatiotemporal climatic heterogeneity of western North America has served as a driver of diversification. Our data are also consistent with Axelrod's hypothesis that the spread of arid conditions in western North America stimulated diversification of arid-adapted lineages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-240
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Disparification
  • Ecological radiation
  • Phylogeny
  • Speciation
  • Species distribution models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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