November 7 (Tue) at 16:00 - 17:00, 2023 (JST)
  • via Zoom
Gen Kurosawa

The global latitudinal gradient of biodiversity, a pattern suggesting that the low-latitude (tropical) areas have more species than the high-latitude (temperate) areas, represents the most conspicuous pattern of correlation between the environmental/geographic variation and biodiversity distribution. Yet, the relative roles of all ecological, geographic, and historical variables that can explain the gradient are unclear. Specifically, it is because we do not have a clear link between latitude and the underlying mechanisms that originate and extinct species throughout the gradient. In other words, we lack a connection between the “macroevolutionary patterns" and “microevolutionary processes”. I am researching the community assembly of ferns from the American continent, as it seems to be a group that can give some answers to what causes the latitudinal gradient of biodiversity and how the gradient is related to the processes of speciation and extinction. Regarding the community assembly, as expected, I found that the fern community clearly follows the latitudinal gradient: the number of species and localities colonized by ferns decrease with latitude. Also, this pattern is associated to a strong phylogenetic structure: the community at each latitudinal area is dependent of the previously colonizing genera (in other words, genera tend to diversify within specific latitudinal spans; most of them are restricted to the tropics). These results suggest that the fern community from the American continent follows the latitudinal gradient, and that it is a good representer of this pattern. Then, using linear regressions, I tested some classical hypotheses that have been proposed to explain the latitudinal gradient (e.g., that tropical environments, being more thermodynamically active, promote higher speciation rates). However, my results so far, suggest that none of the previously proposed hypotheses give a satisfactory explanation: there is no a single factor that can link the gradient with the processes of speciation or extinction. Rather, my data suggest that to promote speciation, the relative roles of environmental differentiation, geographic isolation, niche divergence, and time since divergence between sister species pairs vary with latitude. For example, to become new species, species near the equator did not need much geographic isolation or niche divergence from their sister counterparts (i.e., near the equator, species pairs tend to be more sympatric and present higher niche overlap). I hope my talk can stimulate some discussion about how to approach and treat the data that I have compiled, and that we can create opportunities for further collaboration.

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