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Elevational differentiation accelerates trait evolution but not speciation rates in Amazonian birds

Luzuriaga‐Aveiga, Vanessa E., Weir, Jason T.
Ecology letters 2019 v.22 no.4 pp. 624-633
Neotropics, Passeriformes, ecological differentiation, ecosystems, neotropical birds, Andes region
The importance of ecologically mediated divergent selection in accelerating trait evolution has been poorly studied in the most species‐rich biome of the planet, the continental Neotropics. We performed macroevolutionary analyses of trait divergence and diversification rates across closely related pairs of Andean and Amazonian passerine birds, to assess whether the difference in elevational range separating species pairs – a proxy for the degree of ecological divergence – influences the speed of trait evolution and diversification rates. We found that elevational differentiation is associated with faster divergence of song frequency, a trait important for pre‐mating isolation, and several morphological traits, which may contribute to extrinsic post‐mating isolation. However, elevational differentiation did not increase recent speciation rates, possibly due to early bursts of diversification during the uplift of the eastern Andes followed by a slow‐down in speciation rate. Our results suggest that ecological differentiation may speed up trait evolution, but not diversification of Neotropical birds.