Gene flow among populations can enhance local adaptation if it introduces new genetic variants available for selection, but strong gene flow can also stall adaptation by swamping locally beneficial genes. These outcomes can depend on population size, genetic variation, and the environmental context. Gene flow patterns may align with geographic distance (IBD—isolation by distance), whereby immigration rates are inversely proportional to the distance between populations. Alternatively gene flow may follow patterns of isolation by environment (IBE), whereby gene flow rates are higher among similar environments. Finally, gene flow may be highest among dissimilar environments (counter-gradient gene flow), the classic "gene-swamping" scenario. Here we survey relevant studies to determine the prevalence of each pattern across environmental gradients. Of 70 studies, we found evidence of IBD in 20.0%, IBE in 37.1%, and both patterns in 37.1%. In addition, 10.0% of studies exhibited counter-gradient gene flow. In total, 74.3% showed significant IBE patterns. This predominant IBE pattern of gene flow may have arisen directly through natural selection or reflect other adaptive and nonadaptive processes leading to nonrandom gene flow. It also precludes gene swamping as a widespread phenomenon. Implications for evolutionary processes and management under rapidly changing environments (e.g., climate change) are discussed.
Convergent evolution of similar phenotypic features in similar environmental contexts has long been taken as evidence of adaptation. Nonetheless, recent conceptual and empirical developments in many fields have led to a proliferation of ideas about the relationship between convergence and adaptation. Despite criticism from some systematically minded biologists, I reaffirm that convergence in taxa occupying similar selective environments often is the result of natural selection. However, convergent evolution of a trait in a particular environment can occur for reasons other than selection on that trait in that environment, and species can respond to similar selective pressures by evolving nonconvergent adaptations. For these reasons, studies of convergence should be coupled with other methods—such as direct measurements of selection or investigations of the functional correlates of trait evolution—to test hypotheses of adaptation. The independent acquisition of similar phenotypes by the same genetic or developmental pathway has been suggested as evidence of constraints on adaptation, a view widely repeated as genomic studies have documented phenotypic convergence resulting from change in the same genes, sometimes even by the same mutation. Contrary to some claims, convergence by changes in the same genes is not necessarily evidence of constraint, but rather suggests hypotheses that can test the relative roles of constraint and selection in directing phenotypic evolution.
The search for the alíeles that matter, the quantitative trait nucleotides (QTN s ) that underlie heritable variation within populations and divergence among them, is a popular pursuit. But what is the question to which QTN s are the answer? Although their pursuit is often invoked as a means of addressing the molecular basis of phenotypic evolution or of estimating the roles of evolutionary forces, the QTN s that are accessible to experimentalists, QTN s of relatively large effect, may be uninformative about these issues if large-effect variants are unrepresentative of the alíeles that matter. Although 20th century evolutionary biology generally viewed large-effect variants as atypical, the field has recently undergone a quiet realignment toward a view of readily discoverable largeeffect alíeles as the primary molecular substrates for evolution. I argue that neither theory nor data justify this realignment.Models and experimental findings covering broad swaths of evolutionary phenomena suggest that evolution often acts via large numbers of small-effect polygenes, individually undetectable. Moreover, these small-effect variants are different in kind, at the molecular level, from the large-effect alíeles accessible to experimentalists. Although discoverable QTN s address some fundamental evolutionary questions, they are essentially misleading about many others.
Abstract Environmental niche models, which are generated by combining species occurrence data with environmental GIS data layers, are increasingly used to answer fundamental questions about niche evolution, speciation, and the accumulation of ecological diversity within clades. The question of whether environmental niches are conserved over evolutionary time scales has attracted considerable attention, but often produced conflicting conclusions. This conflict, however, may result from differences in how niche similarity is measured and the specific null hypothesis being tested. We develop new methods for quantifying niche overlap that rely on a traditional ecological measure and a metric from mathematical statistics. We reexamine a classic study of niche conservatism between sister species in several groups of Mexican animals, and, for the first time, address alternative definitions of “niche conservatism” within a single framework using consistent methods. As expected, we find that environmental niches o...
Comparative methods used to study patterns of evolutionary change in a continuous trait on a phylogeny range from Brownian motion processes to models where the trait is assumed to evolve according to an Ornstein—Uhlenbeck (OU) process. Although these models have proved useful in a variety of contexts, they still do not cover all the scenarios biologists want to examine. For models based on the OU process, model complexity is restricted in current implementations by assuming that the rate of stochastic motion and the strength of selection do not vary among selective regimes. Here, we expand the OU model of adaptive evolution to include models that variously relax the assumption of a constant rate and strength of selection. In its most general form, the methods described here can assign each selective regime a separate trait optimum, a rate of stochastic motion parameter, and a parameter for the strength of selection. We use simulations to show that our models can detect meaningful differences in the evolutionary process, especially with larger sample sizes. We also illustrate our method using an empirical example of genome size evolution within a large flowering plant clade.
What is the nature of the genetic changes underlying phenotypic evolution? We have catalogued 1008 alleles described in the literature that cause phenotypic differences among animals, plants, and yeasts. Surprisingly, evolution of similar traits in distinct lineages often involves mutations in the same gene ("gene reuse"). This compilation yields three important qualitative implications about repeated evolution. First, the apparent evolution of similar traits by gene reuse can be traced back to two alternatives, either several independent causative mutations or a single original mutational event followed by sorting processes. Second, hotspots of evolution—defined as the repeated occurrence of de novo mutations at orthologous loci and causing similar phenotypic variation—are omnipresent in the literature with more than 100 examples covering various levels of analysis, including numerous gain-of-function events. Finally, several alleles of large effect have been shown to result from the aggregation of multiple small-effect mutations at the same hotspot locus, thus reconciling micromutationist theories of adaptation with the empirical observation of large-effect variants. Although data heterogeneity and experimental biases prevented us from extracting quantitative trends, our synthesis highlights the existence of genetic paths of least resistance leading to viable evolutionary change.
George Gaylord Simpson famously postulated that much of life's diversity originated as adaptive radiations— more or less simultaneous divergences of numerous lines from a single ancestral adaptive type. However, identifying adaptive radiations has proven difficult due to a lack of broad-scale comparative datasets. Here, we use phylogenetic comparative data on body size and shape in a diversity of animal clades to test a key model of adaptive radiation, in which initially rapid morphological evolution is followed by relative stasis. We compared the fit of this model to both single selective peak and random walk models. We found little support for the early-burst model of adaptive radiation, whereas both other models, particularly that of selective peaks, were commonly supported. In addition, we found that the net rate of morphological evolution varied inversely with clade age. The youngest clades appear to evolve most rapidly because long-term change typically does not attain the amount of divergence predicted from rates measured over short time scales. Across our entire analysis, the dominant pattern was one of constraints shaping evolution continually through time rather than rapid evolution followed by stasis. We suggest that the classical model of adaptive radiation, where morphological evolution is initially rapid and slows through time, may be rare in comparative data.
Ants are one of the most ecologically and numerically dominant group of terrestrial organisms with most species diversity currently found in tropical climates. Several explanations for the disparity of biological diversity in the tropics compared to temperate regions have been proposed including that the tropics may act as a "museum" where older lineages persist through evolutionary time or as a "cradle" where new species continue to be generated. We infer the molecular phylogenetic relationships of 295 ant specimens including members of all 21 extant subfamilies to explore the evolutionary diversification and biogeography of the ants. By constraining the topology and age of the root node while using 45 fossils as minimum constraints, we converge on an age of 139–158 Mya for the modern ants. Further diversification analyses identified 10 periods with a significant change in the tempo of diversification of the ants, although these shifts did not appear to correspond to ancestral biogeographic range shifts. Likelihood-based historical biogeographic reconstructions suggest that the Neotropics were important in early ant diversification (e.g., Cretaceous). This finding coupled with the extremely high-current species diversity suggests that the Neotropics have acted as both a museum and cradle for ant diversity.
The advent and maturation of algorithms for estimating species trees—phylogenetic trees that allow gene tree heterogeneity and whose tips represent lineages, populations and species, as opposed to genes—represent an exciting confluence of phylogenetics, phylogeography, and population genetics, and ushers in a new generation of concepts and challenges for the molecular systematist. In this essay I argue that to better deal with the large multilocus datasets brought on by phylogenomics, and to better align the fields of phylogeography and phylogenetics, we should embrace the primacy of species trees, not only as a new and useful practical tool for systematics, but also as a long-standing conceptual goal of systematics that, largely due to the lack of appropriate computational tools, has been eclipsed in the past few decades. I suggest that phylogenies as gene trees are a “local optimum” for systematics, and review recent advances that will bring us to the broader optimum inherent in species trees. In additi...
Phylogenetic methods for the analysis of species data are widely used in evolutionary studies. However, preliminary data transformations and data reduction procedures (such as a size-correction and principal components analysis, PCA) are often performed without first correcting for nonindependence among the observations for species. In the present short comment and attached R and MATLAB code, I provide an overview of statistically correct procedures for phylogenetic size-correction and PCA. I also show that ignoring phylogeny in preliminary transformations can result in significantly elevated variance and type I error in our statistical estimators, even if subsequent analysis of the transformed data is performed using phylogenetic methods. This means that ignoring phylogeny during preliminary data transformations can possibly lead to spurious results in phylogenetic statistical analyses of species data.
Molecular phylogenies contain information about the tempo and mode of species diversification through time. Because extinction leaves a characteristic signature in the shape of molecular phylogenetic trees, many studies have used data from extant taxa only to infer extinction rates. This is a promising approach for the large number of taxa for which extinction rates cannot be estimated from the fossil record. Here, I explore the consequences of violating a common assumption made by studies of extinction from phylogenetic data. I show that when diversification rates vary among lineages, simple estimators based on the birth-death process are unable to recover true extinction rates. This is problematic for phylogenetic trees with complete taxon sampling as well as for the simpler case of clades with known age and species richness. Given the ubiquity of variation in diversification rates among lineages and clades, these results suggest that extinction rates should not be estimated in the absence of fossil data.
Many ecologically important traits have a complex genetic basis, with the potential for mutations at many different genes to shape the phenotype. Even so, studies of local adaptation in heterogeneous environments sometimes find that just a few quantitative trait loci (QTL) of large effect can explain a large percentage of observed differences between phenotypically divergent populations. As high levels of gene flow can swamp divergence at weakly selected alleles, migration–selection–drift balance may play an important role in shaping the genetic architecture of local adaptation. Here, we use analytical approximations and individual-based simulations to explore how genetic architecture evolves when two populations connected by migration experience stabilizing selection toward different optima. In contrast to the exponential distribution of allele effect sizes expected under adaptation without migration (Orr 1998), we find that adaptation with migration tends to result in concentrated genetic architectures with fewer, larger, and more tightly linked divergent alleles. Even if many small alleles contribute to adaptation at the outset, they tend to be replaced by a few large alleles under prolonged bouts of stabilizing selection with migration. All else being equal, we also find that stronger selection can maintain linked clusters of locally adapted alleles over much greater map distances than weaker selection. The common empirical finding of QTL of large effect is shown to be expected with migration in a heterogeneous landscape, and these QTL may often be composed of several tightly linked alleles of smaller effect.
Since Darwin published the "Origin," great progress has been made in our understanding of speciation mechanisms. The early investigations by Mayr and Dobzhansky linked Darwin's view of speciation by adaptive divergence to the evolution of reproductive isolation, and thus provided a framework for studying the origin of species. However, major controversies and questions remain, including: When is speciation nonecological? Under what conditions does geographic isolation constitute a reproductive isolating barrier? and How do we estimate the "importance" of different isolating barriers? Here, we address these questions, providing historical background and offering some new perspectives. A topic of great recent interest is the role of ecology in speciation. "Ecological speciation" is defined as the case in which divergent selection leads to reproductive isolation, with speciation under uniform selection, polyploid speciation, and speciation by genetic drift defined as "nonecological." We review these proposed cases of nonecological speciation and conclude that speciation by uniform selection and polyploidy normally involve ecological processes. Furthermore, because selection can impart reproductive isolation both directly through traits under selection and indirectly through pleiotropy and linkage, it is much more effective in producing isolation than genetic drift. We thus argue that natural selection is a ubiquitous part of speciation, and given the many ways in which stochastic and deterministic factors may interact during divergence, we question whether the ecological speciation concept is useful. We also suggest that geographic isolation caused by adaptation to different habitats plays a major, and largely neglected, role in speciation. We thus provide a framework for incorporating geographic isolation into the biological species concept (BSC) by separating ecological from historical processes that govern species distributions, allowing for an estimate of geographic isolation based upon genetic differences between taxa. Finally, we suggest that the individual and relative contributions of all potential barriers be estimated for species pairs that have recently achieved species status under the criteria of the BSC. Only in this way will it be possible to distinguish those barriers that have actually contributed to speciation from those that have accumulated after speciation is complete. We conclude that ecological adaptation is the major driver of reproductive isolation, and that the term "biology of speciation," as proposed by Mayr, remains an accurate and useful characterization of the diversity of speciation mechanisms.