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  1. Rates of species formation vary widely across the tree of life and contribute to massive disparities in species richness among clades. This variation can emerge from differences in metapopulation-level processes that affect the rates at which lineages diverge, persist, and evolve reproductive barriers and ecological differentiation. For example, populations that evolve reproductive barriers quickly should form new species at faster rates than populations that acquire reproductive barriers more slowly. This expectation implicitly links microevolutionary processes (the evolution of populations) and macroevolutionary patterns (the profound disparity in speciation rate across taxa). Here, leveraging extensive field sampling from the Neotropical Cerrado biome in a biogeographically controlled natural experiment, we test the role of an important microevolutionary process—the propensity for population isolation—as a control on speciation rate in lizards and snakes. By quantifying population genomic structure across a set of codistributed taxa with extensive and phylogenetically independent variation in speciation rate, we show that broad-scale patterns of species formation are decoupled from demographic and genetic processes that promote the formation of population isolates. Population isolation is likely a critical stage of speciation for many taxa, but our results suggest that interspecific variability in the propensity for isolation has little influence on speciation rates.more »These results suggest that other stages of speciation—including the rate at which reproductive barriers evolve and the extent to which newly formed populations persist—are likely to play a larger role than population isolation in controlling speciation rate variation in squamates.« less
  2. Phylogenomic investigations of biodiversity facilitate the detection of fine-scale population genetic structure and the demographic histories of species and populations. However, determining whether or not the genetic divergence measured among populations reflects species-level differentiation remains a central challenge in species delimitation. One potential solution is to compare genetic divergence between putative new species with other closely related species, sometimes referred to as a reference-based taxonomy. To be described as a new species, a population should be at least as divergent as other species. Here, we develop a reference-based taxonomy for Horned Lizards ( Phrynosoma ; 17 species) using phylogenomic data (ddRADseq data) to provide a framework for delimiting species in the Greater Short-horned Lizard species complex ( P. hernandesi ). Previous species delimitation studies of this species complex have produced conflicting results, with morphological data suggesting that P. hernandesi consists of five species, whereas mitochondrial DNA support anywhere from 1 to 10 + species. To help address this conflict, we first estimated a time-calibrated species tree for P. hernandesi and close relatives using SNP data. These results support the paraphyly of P. hernandesi; we recommend the recognition of two species to promote a taxonomy that is consistent with species monophyly.more »There is strong evidence for three populations within P. hernandesi , and demographic modeling and admixture analyses suggest that these populations are not reproductively isolated, which is consistent with previous morphological analyses that suggest hybridization could be common. Finally, we characterize the population-species boundary by quantifying levels of genetic divergence for all 18 Phrynosoma species. Genetic divergence measures for western and southern populations of P. hernandesi failed to exceed those of other Phrynosoma species, but the relatively small population size estimated for the northern population causes it to appear as a relatively divergent species. These comparisons underscore the difficulties associated with putting a reference-based approach to species delimitation into practice. Nevertheless, the reference-based approach offers a promising framework for the consistent assessment of biodiversity within clades of organisms with similar life histories and ecological traits.« less
  3. Ruane, Sara (Ed.)
    Abstract Genome-scale data have the potential to clarify phylogenetic relationships across the tree of life but have also revealed extensive gene tree conflict. This seeming paradox, whereby larger data sets both increase statistical confidence and uncover significant discordance, suggests that understanding sources of conflict is important for accurate reconstruction of evolutionary history. We explore this paradox in squamate reptiles, the vertebrate clade comprising lizards, snakes, and amphisbaenians. We collected an average of 5103 loci for 91 species of squamates that span higher-level diversity within the clade, which we augmented with publicly available sequences for an additional 17 taxa. Using a locus-by-locus approach, we evaluated support for alternative topologies at 17 contentious nodes in the phylogeny. We identified shared properties of conflicting loci, finding that rate and compositional heterogeneity drives discordance between gene trees and species tree and that conflicting loci rarely overlap across contentious nodes. Finally, by comparing our tests of nodal conflict to previous phylogenomic studies, we confidently resolve 9 of the 17 problematic nodes. We suggest this locus-by-locus and node-by-node approach can build consensus on which topological resolutions remain uncertain in phylogenomic studies of other contentious groups. [Anchored hybrid enrichment (AHE); gene tree conflict; molecular evolution; phylogenomic concordance;more »target capture; ultraconserved elements (UCE).]« less
  4. Natural selection is an important driver of genetic and phenotypic differentiation between species. For species in which potential gene flow is high but realized gene flow is low, adaptation via natural selection may be a particularly important force maintaining species. For a recent radiation of New World desert shrubs (Encelia: Asteraceae), we use fine-scale geographic sampling and population genomics to determine patterns of gene flow across two hybrid zones formed between two independent pairs of species with parapatric distributions. After finding evidence for extremely strong selection at both hybrid zones, we use a combination of field experiments, high-resolution imaging, and physiological measurements to determine the ecological basis for selection at one of the hybrid zones. Our results identify multiple ecological mechanisms of selection (drought, salinity, herbivory, and burial) that together are sufficient to maintain species boundaries despite high rates of hybridization. Given that multiple pairs ofEnceliaspecies hybridize at ecologically divergent parapatric boundaries, such mechanisms may maintain species boundaries throughoutEncelia.