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  1. Snakes and lizards (Squamata) represent a third of terrestrial vertebrates and exhibit spectacular innovations in locomotion, feeding, and sensory processing. However, the evolutionary drivers of this radiation remain poorly known. We infer potential causes and ultimate consequences of squamate macroevolution by combining individual-based natural history observations (>60,000 animals) with a comprehensive time-calibrated phylogeny that we anchored with genomic data (5400 loci) from 1018 species. Due to shifts in the dynamics of speciation and phenotypic evolution, snakes have transformed the trophic structure of animal communities through the recurrent origin and diversification of specialized predatory strategies. Squamate biodiversity reflects a legacy of singular events that occurred during the early history of snakes and reveals the impact of historical contingency on vertebrate biodiversity.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 23, 2025
  2. Eaton, Deren (Ed.)
    Abstract Applications of molecular phylogenetic approaches have uncovered evidence of hybridization across numerous clades of life, yet the environmental factors responsible for driving opportunities for hybridization remain obscure. Verbal models implicating geographic range shifts that brought species together during the Pleistocene have often been invoked, but quantitative tests using paleoclimatic data are needed to validate these models. Here, we produce a phylogeny for Heuchereae, a clade of 15 genera and 83 species in Saxifragaceae, with complete sampling of recognized species, using 277 nuclear loci and nearly complete chloroplast genomes. We then employ an improved framework with a coalescent simulation approach to test and confirm previous hybridization hypotheses and identify one new intergeneric hybridization event. Focusing on the North American distribution of Heuchereae, we introduce and implement a newly developed approach to reconstruct potential past distributions for ancestral lineages across all species in the clade and across a paleoclimatic record extending from the late Pliocene. Time calibration based on both nuclear and chloroplast trees recovers a mid- to late-Pleistocene date for most inferred hybridization events, a timeframe concomitant with repeated geographic range restriction into overlapping refugia. Our results indicate an important role for past episodes of climate change, and the contrasting responses of species with differing ecological strategies, in generating novel patterns of range contact among plant communities and therefore new opportunities for hybridization. The new ancestral niche method flexibly models the shape of niche while incorporating diverse sources of uncertainty and will be an important addition to the current comparative methods toolkit. [Ancestral niche reconstruction; hybridization; paleoclimate; pleistocene.] 
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  3. Evolutionary biologists have long been fascinated with the episodes of rapid phenotypic innovation that underlie the emergence of major lineages. Although our understanding of the environmental and ecological contexts of such episodes has steadily increased, it has remained unclear how population processes contribute to emergent macroevolutionary patterns. One insight gleaned from phylogenomics is that gene-tree conflict, frequently caused by population-level processes, is often rampant during the origin of major lineages. With the understanding that phylogenomic conflict is often driven by complex population processes, we hypothesized that there may be a direct correspondence between instances of high conflict and elevated rates of phenotypic innovation if both patterns result from the same processes. We evaluated this hypothesis in six clades spanning vertebrates and plants. We found that the most conflict-rich regions of these six clades also tended to experience the highest rates of phenotypic innovation, suggesting that population processes shaping both phenotypic and genomic evolution may leave signatures at deep timescales. Closer examination of the biological significance of phylogenomic conflict may yield improved connections between micro- and macroevolution and increase our understanding of the processes that shape the origin of major lineages across the Tree of Life.

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  4. Summary

    Regions harbouring high unique phylogenetic diversity (PD) are priority targets for conservation. Here, we analyse the global distribution of plant PD, which remains poorly understood despite plants being the foundation of most terrestrial habitats and key to human livelihoods.

    Capitalising on a recently completed, comprehensive global checklist of vascular plants, we identify hotspots of unique plant PD and test three hypotheses: (1) PD is more evenly distributed than species diversity; (2) areas of highest PD (often called ‘hotspots’) do not maximise cumulative PD; and (3) many biomes are needed to maximise cumulative PD.

    Our results support all three hypotheses: more than twice as many regions are required to cover 50% of global plant PD compared to 50% of species; regions that maximise cumulative PD substantially differ from the regions with outstanding individual PD; and while (sub‐)tropical moist forest regions dominate across PD hotspots, other forest types and open biomes are also essential.

    Safeguarding PD in the Anthropocene (including the protection of some comparatively species‐poor areas) is a global, increasingly recognised responsibility. Having highlighted countries with outstanding unique plant PD, further analyses are now required to fully understand the global distribution of plant PD and associated conservation imperatives across spatial scales.

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  5. null (Ed.)
  6. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Old, climatically buffered, infertile landscapes (OCBILs) have been hypothesized to harbour an elevated number of persistent plant lineages and are predicted to occur across different parts of the globe, interspersed with other types of landscapes. We tested whether the mean age of a plant community is associated with occurrence on OCBILs, as predicted by climatic stability and poor soil environments. Using digitized occurrence data for seed plants occurring in Australia (7033 species), sub-Saharan Africa (3990 species) and South America (44 482 species), regions that comprise commonly investigated OCBILs (Southwestern Australian Floristic Region, Greater Cape Floristic Region and campos rupestres), and phylogenies pruned to match the species occurrences, we tested for associations between environmental data (current climate, soil composition, elevation and climatic stability) and two novel metrics developed here that capture the age of a community (mean tip length and mean node height). Our results indicate that plant community ages are influenced by a combination of multiple environmental predictors that vary globally; we did not find statistically strong associations between the environments of OCBIL areas and community age, in contrast to the prediction for these landscapes. The Cape Floristic Region was the only OCBIL that showed a significant, although not strong, overlap with old communities. 
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