Phylogenetic evidence for competitively driven divergence: Body-size evolution in caribbean treefrogs (Hylidae: Osteopilus)

Daniel S. Moen, John J. Wiens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Understanding the role of competition in explaining phenotypic diversity is a challenging problem, given that the most divergent species may no longer compete today. However, convergent evolution of extreme body sizes across communities may offer evidence of past competition. For example, many treefrog assemblages around the world have convergently evolved species with very large and small body sizes. To better understand this global pattern, we studied body-size diversification within the small, endemic radiation of Caribbean treefrogs (Osteopilus). We introduce a suite of analyses designed to help reveal the signature of past competition. Diet analyses show that Osteopilus are generalist predators and that prey size is strongly associated with body size, suggesting that body-size divergence facilitates resource partitioning. Community assembly models indicate that treefrog body-size distributions in Jamaica and Hispaniola are consistent with expectations from competition. Phylogenetic analyses show that similar body-size extremes in Jamaica and Hispaniola have originated through parallel evolution on each island, and the rate of body-size evolution in Osteopilus is accelerated relative to mainland treefrogs. Together, these results suggest that competition may have driven the rapid diversification of body sizes in Caribbean treefrogs to the extremes seen in treefrog communities around the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-214
Number of pages20
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Body size
  • Caribbean
  • Community assembly
  • Competition
  • Diversification
  • Phylogenetic analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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