Testing the role of climate in speciation: New methods and applications to squamate reptiles (lizards and snakes)

Tereza Jezkova, John J. Wiens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Climate may play important roles in speciation, such as causing the range fragmentation that underlies allopatric speciation (through niche conservatism) or driving divergence of parapatric populations along climatic gradients (through niche divergence). Here, we developed new methods to test the frequency of climate niche conservatism and divergence in speciation, and applied it to species pairs of squamate reptiles (lizards and snakes). We used a large-scale phylogeny to identify 242 sister species pairs for analysis. From these, we selected all terrestrial allopatric pairs with sufficient occurrence records (n = 49 pairs) and inferred whether each originated via climatic niche conservatism or climatic niche divergence. Among the 242 pairs, allopatric pairs were most common (41.3%), rather than parapatric (19.4%), partially sympatric (17.7%), or fully sympatric species pairs (21.5%). Among the 49 selected allopatric pairs, most appeared to have originated via climatic niche divergence (61–76%, depending on the details of the methods). Surprisingly, we found greater climatic niche divergence between allopatric sister species than between parapatric pairs, even after correcting for geographic distance. We also found that niche divergence did not increase with time, further implicating niche divergence in driving lineage splitting. Overall, our results suggest that climatic niche divergence may often play an important role in allopatric speciation, and the methodology developed here can be used to address the generality of these findings in other organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2754-2769
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • climatic niche
  • lizards
  • niche conservatism
  • niche divergence
  • snakes
  • speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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