Numerous researchers have posited that there should be a strong negative relationship between the evolutionary distance among species and their ecological similarity. Alternative evidence suggests that members of adaptive radiations should display no relationship between divergence time and ecological similarity because rapid evolution results in near-simultaneous speciation early in the clade's history. In this paper, we performed the first investigation of ecological diversity in a phylogenetic context using a mammalian adaptive radiation, the Malagasy primates.
We collected data for 43 extant species including: 1) 1064 species by locality samples, 2) GIS climate data for each sampling locality, and 3) the phylogenetic relationships of the species. We calculated the niche space of each species by summarizing the climatic variation at localities of known occurrence. Climate data from all species occurrences at all sites were entered into a principal components analysis. We calculated the mean value of the first two PCA axes, representing rainfall and temperature diversity, for each species. We calculated the K statistic using the Physig program for Matlab to examine how well the climatic niche space of species was correlated with phylogeny.
We found that there was little relationship between the phylogenetic distance of Malagasy primates and their rainfall and temperature niche space, i.e., closely related species tend to occupy different climatic niches. Furthermore, several species from different genera converged on a similar climatic niche. These results have important implications for the evolution of ecological diversity, and the long-term survival of these endangered species.
Kamilar, Jason M. and Muldoon, Kathleen M., "The Climatic Niche Diversity of Malagasy Primates: A Phylogenetic Perspective" (2010). Open Dartmouth: Faculty Open Access Articles. 3392.