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The evolutionary reality of higher taxa in mammals
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences. Imperial College London, England.
2014 (English)In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences, ISSN 0962-8452, E-ISSN 1471-2954, Vol. 281, no 1783Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Species are generally regarded as a fundamental unit of biodiversity. By contrast, higher taxa such as genera and families, while widely used as biodiversity metrics and for classification and communication, are generally not believed to be shaped by shared evolutionary processes in the same way as species. We use simulations to show that processes which are important for emergence of evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) at the species level, namely geographical isolation and ecological divergence, can generate evolutionary independence above the species level and thereby lead to emergence of discrete phylogenetic clusters (higher ESUs). Extending phylogenetic approaches for delimiting evolutionarily significant species to broader phylogenetic scales, we find evidence for the existence of higher ESUs in mammals. In carnivores, euungulates and lagomorphs the hierarchical level of units detected correspond, on average, to the level of family or genus in traditional taxonomy. The units in euungulates are associated with divergent patterns of body mass, consistent with occupation of distinct ecological zones. Our findings demonstrate a new framework for studying biodiversity that unifies approaches at species and higher levels, thus potentially restoring higher taxa to their historical status as natural entities.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 281, no 1783
Keyword [en]
adaptive radiation, Artiodactyla, Carnivora, diversification, Lagomorpha, Perissodactyla
National Category
Biological Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-104121DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2750ISI: 000334411600002OAI: diva2:721032


Available from: 2014-06-03 Created: 2014-06-03 Last updated: 2014-06-03Bibliographically approved

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Humphreys, Aelys M.
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