Evolutionary dynamics of taxonomic structure
Department of the Geophysical Sciences, The University of Chicago, 5734 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
The distribution of species among genera and higher taxa has largely untapped potential to reveal among-clade variation in rates of origination and extinction. The probability distribution of the number of species within a genus is modelled with a stochastic, time-homogeneous birth–death model having two parameters: the rate of species extinction, μ, and the rate of genus origination, γ, each scaled as a multiple of the rate of within-genus speciation, λ. The distribution is more sensitive to γ than to μ, although μ affects the size of the largest genera. The species : genus ratio depends strongly on both γ and μ, and so is not a good diagnostic of evolutionary dynamics. The proportion of monotypic genera, however, depends mainly on γ, and so may provide an index of the genus origination rate. Application to living marine molluscs of New Zealand shows that bivalves have a higher relative rate of genus origination than gastropods. This is supported by the analysis of palaeontological data. This concordance suggests that analysis of living taxonomic distributions may allow inference of macroevolutionary dynamics even without a fossil record.
evolutionary rates, hollow curve, mathematical modelling, New Zealand, Mollusca
One contribution of 12 to a Special Feature on ‘Models in palaeontology’.
Received May 26, 2011.
Accepted August 4, 2011.
This journal is © 2011 The Royal Society