A phylogeographic process model to investigate paleo-climatic drivers of diversity

Dr Daniel Rosauer1

1Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Macro-ecological process models are showing great potential to increase understanding of the interacting processes of historical climate, geography and evolution have shaped the spatial distribution of biodiversity. When simulating expected biodiversity, a relatively simple set of parameters can shed light on the complex dynamics of moving species which generate and sustain biodiversity.
Here we use a novel macro-ecological simulation to focus on the phylogeographic scale, where new species arise through repeated processes of divergence and reintegration, isolation and secondary contact. By simulating spatially explicit gene flow, niche evolution, and range shifts on real and simulated landscapes, this approach aims to understand how different landforms generate and sustain diversity and produce areas of endemism.
Combining this simulation with a paleo-climate model for 800,000 years of Pleistocene climate cycles, reveals the interaction of climate, landscape and species characteristics in driving diversification and persistence.
Varying just three parameters: dispersal speed, rate of local niche evolution and the rate at which genomic divergence leads to reproductive isolation, this model elicits emergent properties observed in nature (but not coded into the model). These include range limitation due to gene flow along environmental gradients preventing local adaptation; and dominance of rare genomic variants on fronts of range expansion.
The new approach presented here will add to knowledge of the role of landscape dynamics in generating macro-scale patterns of phylo-diversity and endemism.


Biogrpahy: 

Dan Rosauer is a biogeographer and conservation scientist based at the Australian National University.

His work spans mapping and explaining spatial patterns in biological diversity, and applying this information to improve conservation decisions. He is fascinated by the causes of endemism.

A common theme throughout his research is the linking of spatial and phylogenetic information to gain a much richer understanding of the distribution of biodiversity.

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