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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Apparent effect of range size and fruit colour on palm diversification may be spurious

Hill, Adrian; Jimenez, Maria Fernanda Torres; Chazot, Nicolas; Cassia-Silva, Cibele; Faurby, Soren; Herrera-Alsina, Leonel; Bacon, Christine D. D.


Aim Fruit selection by animal dispersers with different mobility directly impacts plant geographical range size, which, in turn, may impact plant diversification. Here, we examine the interaction between fruit colour, range size and diversification rate in palms by testing two hypotheses: (1) species with fruit colours attractive to birds have larger range sizes due to high dispersal ability and (2) disperser mobility affects whether small or large range size has higher diversification, and intermediate range size is expected to lead to the highest diversification rate regardless of disperser.Location Global.Time Period Contemporary (or present).Major Taxa Studied Palms (Arecaceae).Methods Palm species were grouped based on likely animal disperser group for given fruit colours. Range sizes were estimated by constructing alpha convex hull polygons from distribution data. We examined disperser group, range size or an interaction of both as possible drivers of change in diversification rate over time in a likelihood dynamic model (Several Examined State-dependent Speciation and Extinction [SecSSE]). Models were fitted, rate estimates were retrieved and likelihoods were compared to those of appropriate null models.Results Species with fruit colours associated with mammal dispersal had larger ranges than those with colours associated with bird dispersal. The best fitting SecSSE models indicated that the examined traits were not the primary driver of the heterogeneity in diversification rates in the model. Extinction rate complexity had a marked impact on model performance and on diversification rates.Main Conclusions Two traits related to dispersal mobility, range size and fruit colour, were not identified as the main drivers of diversification in palms. Increased model extinction rate complexity led to better performing models, which indicates that net diversification should be estimated rather than speciation alone. However, increased complexity may lead to incorrect SecSSE model conclusions without careful consideration. Finally, we find palms with more mobile dispersers do not have larger range sizes, meaning other factors are more important determinants of range size.


Arecaceae; dispersal; diversification rate; evolutionary dynamics; frugivory; fruit colour; geographical range size; macroecology; palm distribution; plant traits

Published in

Journal of Biogeography
2023, Volume: 50, number: 10, pages: 1724-1736
Publisher: WILEY

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Evolutionary Biology
    Physical Geography

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