Phylogenetic origins of local-scale diversity patterns and the causes of Amazonian megadiversity

John J. Wiens, R. Alexander Pyron, Daniel S. Moen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


What explains the striking variation in local species richness across the globe and the remarkable diversity of rainforest sites in Amazonia? Here, we apply a novel phylogenetic approach to these questions, using treefrogs (Hylidae) as a model system. Hylids show dramatic variation in local richness globally and incredible local diversity in Amazonia. We find that variation in local richness is not explained primarily by climatic factors, rates of diversification (speciation and extinction) nor morphological variation. Instead, local richness patterns are explained predominantly by the timing of colonization of each region, and Amazonian megadiversity is linked to the long-term sympatry of multiple clades in that region. Our results also suggest intriguing interactions between clade diversification, trait evolution and the accumulation of local richness. Specifically, sympatry between clades seems to slow diversification and trait evolution, but prevents neither the accumulation of local richness over time nor the co-occurrence of similar species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)643-652
Number of pages10
JournalEcology letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Amazonia
  • Amphibians
  • Anurans
  • Community ecology
  • Diversification
  • Phylogeny
  • Species richness
  • Tropical rainforest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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