How does climate influence speciation?

Xia Hua, John J. Wiens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Variation in climatic conditions over space and time is thought to be an important driver of speciation. However, the role of climate has not been explored in the theoretical literature on speciation, and the theory underlying empirical studies of climate and speciation has come largely from informal, verbal models. In this study, we develop a quantitative model to test a relatively new but theoretically untested model of speciation (speciation via niche conservatism) and to examine the climatic conditions under which speciation via niche conservatism and speciation via niche divergence are most plausible. Our results have three broad implications for the study of speciation: (1) ecological similarity over time (niche conservatism) can be an important part of speciation, despite the traditional emphasis on ecological divergence, (2) long-term directional climate change promotes speciation via niche conservatism for species with low climatic-niche lability, whereas climatic oscillations promote speciation via niche divergence for species with high climatic- niche lability, and (3) population extinction can be a key component of speciation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Climate
  • Model
  • Niche conservatism
  • Niche evolution
  • Speciation
  • Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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