Replicate patterns of species richness, historical biogeography, and phylogeny in holarctic treefrogs

Sarah A. Smith, Patrick R. Stephens, John J. Wiens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


In recent decades, the field of historical biogeography has become increasingly divorced from evolutionary biology, ecology, and studies of species richness. In this paper, we explore the evolutionary causes of patterns of biogeography and species richness in Northern Hemisphere treefrogs, combining phylogenetics, ancestral area reconstruction, molecular dating methods, and ecological niche modeling. We reconstructed phylogenetic relationships among 58 hylid taxa using data from two mitochondrial genes (12S, ND1) and two nuclear genes (POMC, c-myc). We find that parallel patterns of species richness have developed in Europe, Asia, and in two separate clades of North American hylids, with the highest richness at midtemperate latitudes (30-35°) on each continent. This pattern is surprising given that hylids overall show higher species richness in the New World tropics and given many standard ecological explanations for the latitudinal diversity gradient (e.g., energy, productivity, mid-domain effect). The replicate pattern in Holarctic hylids seems to reflect specialized tolerance for temperate climate regimes or possibly the effects of competition. The results also suggest that long-range dispersal between continental regions with similar climatic regimes may be easier than dispersal between geographically adjacent regions with different climatic regimes. Our results show the importance of ecology and evolution to large-scale biogeography and the importance of large-scale biogeography to understanding patterns of species richness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2433-2450
Number of pages18
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2005


  • Amphibians
  • Biogeography
  • Community assembly
  • Diversification
  • Hylidae
  • Phylogeny
  • Species richness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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