Show Me The Science Month Day 13

The grant writing has reached a fever pitch as the deadline closes in. Tomorrow 30 Days of Evolution Blogging will get back on track, but for today, a title and abstract will have to do. Today's paper is a DNA comparison study of the class of birds known as white-eyes (the Zosteropidae), which have demonstrated an amazing capacity for evolutionary diversification.

Zosterops japonicus, Courtesy the Wikipedia Commons

Explosive Pleistocene diversification and hemispheric expansion of a “great speciator”

Robert G. Moylea,Christopher E. Filardi,Catherine E. Smith and Jared Diamond.

Factors that influence speciation rates among groups of organisms are integral to deciphering macroevolutionary processes; however, they remain poorly understood. Here, we use molecular phylogenetic data and divergence time estimates to reconstruct the pattern and tempo of speciation within a widespread and homogeneous bird family (white-eyes, Zosteropidae) that contains an archetypal “great speciator.” Our analyses show that the majority of this species-rich family constitutes a clade that arose within the last 2 million years, yielding a per-lineage diversification rate among the highest reported for vertebrates (1.95–2.63 species per million years). However, unlike most rapid radiations reported to date, this burst of diversification was not limited in geographic scope, but instead spanned the entire Old World tropics, parts of temperate Asia, and numerous Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean archipelagos. The tempo and geographic breadth of this rapid radiation defy any single diversification paradigm, but implicate a prominent role for lineage-specific life-history traits (such as rapid evolutionary shifts in dispersal ability) that enabled white-eyes to respond rapidly and persistently to the geographic drivers of diversification.

Join me tomorrow, here at Adaptive Complexity, for day 14 of 30 Days of Evolution Blogging Evolution as a science is alive and well. Each day I will blog about a paper related to evolution published in 2009.

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