skip to main content

Title: Metabolic asymmetry and the global diversity of marine predators
Species richness of marine mammals and birds is highest in cold, temperate seas—a conspicuous exception to the general latitudinal gradient of decreasing diversity from the tropics to the poles. We compiled a comprehensive dataset for 998 species of sharks, fish, reptiles, mammals, and birds to identify and quantify inverse latitudinal gradients in diversity, and derived a theory to explain these patterns. We found that richness, phylogenetic diversity, and abundance of marine predators diverge systematically with thermoregulatory strategy and water temperature, reflecting metabolic differences between endotherms and ectotherms that drive trophic and competitive interactions. Spatial patterns of foraging support theoretical predictions, with total prey consumption by mammals increasing by a factor of 80 from the equator to the poles after controlling for productivity.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Aim

    The latitudinal diversity gradient of increasing species richness from poles to equator is one of the most striking and pervasive spatial patterns of biodiversity. Climate appears to have been key to the formation of the latitudinal diversity gradient, but the processes through which climate shaped species richness remain unclear. We tested predictions of the time for speciation, carrying capacity and diversification rate latitudinal diversity gradient hypotheses in a trans‐marine/freshwater clade of fishes.


    Global in marine and freshwater environments.


    Clupeiformes (anchovies, herrings, sardines and relatives).


    We tested predictions of latitudinal diversity gradient hypotheses using a molecular phylogeny, species distribution data and phylogenetic comparative approaches. To test the time for speciation hypothesis, we conducted ancestral state reconstructions to infer the ages of temperate, subtropical and tropical lineages and frequency of evolutionary transitions between climates. We tested the carry capacity hypothesis by characterizing changes in net diversification rates through time. To test the diversification rate hypothesis, we qualitatively compared the diversification rates of temperate, subtropical and tropical lineages and conducted statistical tests for associations between latitude and diversification rates.


    We identified four transitions to temperate climates and two transitions out of temperate climates. We found no differences in diversification rates among temperate and tropical clupeiforms. Net diversification rates remained positive in crown Clupeiformes since their origin ~150 Ma in both tropical and temperate lineages. Climate niche characters exhibited strong phylogenetic signal. All temperate clupeiform lineages arose <50 Ma, after the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum.

    Main conclusions

    Our results support the time for speciation hypothesis, which proposes that climate niche conservatism and fluctuations in the extent of temperate climates limited the time for species to accumulate in temperate climates, resulting in the latitudinal diversity gradient. We found no support for the carrying capacity or diversification rate hypotheses.

    more » « less
  2. Functional diversity is an important aspect of biodiversity, but its relationship to species diversity in time and space is poorly understood. Here we compare spatial patterns of functional and taxonomic diversity across marine and terrestrial systems to identify commonalities in their respective ecological and evolutionary drivers. We placed species-level ecological traits into comparable multi-dimensional frameworks for two model systems, marine bivalves and terrestrial birds, and used global speciesoccurrence data to examine the distribution of functional diversity with latitude and longitude. In both systems, tropical faunas show high total functional richness (FR) but low functional evenness (FE) (i.e. the tropics contain a highly skewed distribution of species among functional groups). Functional groups that persist toward the poles become more uniform in species richness, such that FR declines and FE rises with latitude in both systems. Temperate assemblages are more functionally even than tropical assemblages subsampled to temperate levels of species richness, suggesting that high species richness in the tropics reflects a high degree of ecological specialization within a few functional groups and/or factors that favour high recent speciation or reduced extinction rates in those groups. 
    more » « less
  3. BACKGROUND The Republic of Madagascar is home to a unique assemblage of taxa and a diverse set of ecosystems. These high levels of diversity have arisen over millions of years through complex processes of speciation and extinction. Understanding this extraordinary diversity is crucial for highlighting its global importance and guiding urgent conservation efforts. However, despite the detailed knowledge that exists on some taxonomic groups, there are large knowledge gaps that remain to be filled. ADVANCES Our comprehensive analysis of major taxonomic groups in Madagascar summarizes information on the origin and evolution of terrestrial and freshwater biota, current species richness and endemism, and the utilization of this biodiversity by humans. The depth and breadth of Madagascar’s biodiversity—the product of millions of years of evolution in relative isolation —is still being uncovered. We report a recent acceleration in the scientific description of species but many remain relatively unknown, particularly fungi and most invertebrates. DIGITIZATION Digitization efforts are already increasing the resolution of species richness patterns and we highlight the crucial role of field- and collections-based research for advancing biodiversity knowledge in Madagascar. Phylogenetic diversity patterns mirror that of species richness and endemism in most of the analyzed groups. Among the new data presented, our update on plant numbers estimates 11,516 described vascular plant species native to Madagascar, of which 82% are endemic, in addition to 1215 bryophyte species, of which 28% are endemic. Humid forests are highlighted as centers of diversity because of their role as refugia and centers of recent and rapid radiations, but the distinct endemism of other areas such as the grassland-woodland mosaic of the Central Highlands and the spiny forest of the southwest is also important despite lower species richness. Endemism in Malagasy fungi remains poorly known given the lack of data on the total diversity and global distribution of species. However, our analysis has shown that ~75% of the fungal species detected by environmental sequencing have not been reported as occurring outside of Madagascar. Among the 1314 species of native terrestrial and freshwater vertebrates, levels of endemism are extremely high (90% overall)—all native nonflying terrestrial mammals and native amphibians are found nowhere else on Earth; further, 56% of the island’s birds, 81% of freshwater fishes, 95% of mammals, and 98% of reptile species are endemic. Little is known about endemism in insects, but data from the few well-studied groups on the island suggest that it is similarly high. The uses of Malagasy species are many, with much potential for the uncovering of useful traits for food, medicine, and climate mitigation. OUTLOOK Considerable work remains to be done to fully characterize Madagascar’s biodiversity and evolutionary history. The multitudes of known and potential uses of Malagasy species reported here, in conjunction with the inherent value of this unique and biodiverse region, reinforce the importance of conserving this unique biota in the face of major threats such as habitat loss and overexploitation. The gathering and analysis of data on Madagascar’s remarkable biota must continue and accelerate if we are to safeguard this unique and highly threatened subset of Earth’s biodiversity. Emergence and composition of Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity. Madagascar’s biota is the result of over 160 million years of evolution, mostly in geographic isolation, combined with sporadic long distance immigration events and local extinctions. (Left) We show the age of the oldest endemic Malagasy clade for major groups (from bottom to top): arthropods, bony fishes, reptiles, flatworms, birds, amphibians, flowering plants, mammals, non-flowering vascular plants, and mollusks). Humans arrived recently, some 10,000 to 2000 years (top right) and have directly or indirectly caused multiple extinctions (including hippopotamus, elephant birds, giant tortoises, and giant lemurs) and introduced many new species (such as dogs, zebu, rats, African bushpigs, goats, sheep, rice). Endemism is extremely high and unevenly distributed across the island (the heat map depicts Malagasy palm diversity, a group characteristic of the diverse humid forest). Human use of biodiversity is widespread, including 1916 plant species with reported uses. The scientific description of Malagasy biodiversity has accelerated greatly in recent years (bottom right), yet the diversity and evolution of many groups remain practically unknown, and many discoveries await. 
    more » « less
  4. Aim One of the most consistent global biogeographic patterns is the latitudinal diversity gradient where species richness peaks within the equatorial tropics and decreases towards the poles. Here, we explore the global biogeography of socially parasitic ant species, which comprises the most diverse group of social parasites in the Hymenoptera. We test the biogeographic hypothesis that ant social parasites are distributed along an inverse latitudinal diversity gradient (iLDG) by peaking in diversity outside of the equatorial tropics, which would contrast with the biogeographic pattern observed in free-living, non-parasitic ant species. Location Global. Taxon Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Methods We assembled a comprehensive biogeographic dataset consisting of 6001 geographic distribution records for all 371 taxonomically described socially parasitic ant species. We used phylogenetic and taxonomic studies to estimate the number of independent evolutionary origins of ant social parasitism to directly compare species richness with the number of species representing independent evolutionary origins of social parasitism across a latitudinal gradient. In addition, we compared ant social parasite diversity across biogeographic regions using rarefaction to account for different sampling efforts. Finally, we tested for a correlation between latitude and the proportion of ant social parasite species within regional ant faunae. Results The geographic distribution records and the inferred 91 independent evolutionary origins of socially parasitic life histories in ants show that both species richness and the number of species representing independent evolutionary origins of social parasitism peak in the northern hemisphere outside of the equatorial tropics. Based on rarefaction curves, northern latitude regions harbour the most ant social parasite species, but the diversity of independent evolutionary origins is not significantly different between northern and southern hemispheres. The proportion of ant social parasite species within regional faunae is tightly correlated with latitude only in the northern hemisphere. Main conclusions The iLDG of ant social parasites contrasts with the biogeographic pattern observed in free-living, non-parasitic ant species and appears to be driven by large species radiations as well as by the presence of specialized life histories exclusive to the northern hemisphere. 
    more » « less
  5. Taxonomic diversity of benthic marine invertebrate shelf species declines at present by nearly an order of magnitude from the tropics to the poles in each hemisphere along the latitudinal diversity gradient (LDG), most steeply along the western Pacific where shallow-sea diversity is at its tropical maximum. In the Bivalvia, a model system for macroevolution and macroecology, this taxonomic trend is accompanied by a decline in the number of functional groups and an increase in the evenness of taxa distributed among those groups, with maximum functional evenness (FE) in polar waters of both hemispheres. In contrast, analyses of this model system across the two era-defining events of the Phanerozoic, the Permian–Triassic and Cretaceous–Paleogene mass extinctions, show only minor declines in functional richness despite high extinction intensities, resulting in a rise in FE owing to the persistence of functional groups. We hypothesize that the spatial decline of taxonomic diversity and increase in FE along the present-day LDG primarily reflect diversity-dependent factors, whereas retention of almost all functional groups through the two mass extinctions suggests the operation of diversity-independent factors. Comparative analyses of different aspects of biodiversity thus reveal strongly contrasting biological consequences of similarly severe declines in taxonomic diversity and can help predict the consequences for functional diversity among different drivers of past, present, and future biodiversity loss. 
    more » « less