Diversification, adaptation, and community assembly of the American oaks (Quercus), a model clade for integrating ecology and evolution

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(Table presented.). Summary: Ecologists and evolutionary biologists are concerned with explaining the diversity and composition of the natural world and are aware of the inextricable linkages between ecological and evolutionary processes that maintain the Earth's life support systems. Yet examination of these linkages remains challenging due to the contrasting nature of focal systems and research approaches. Model clades provide a critical means to integrate ecology and evolution, as illustrated by the oaks (genus Quercus), an important model clade, given their ecological dominance, remarkable diversity, and growing phylogenetic, genomic, and ecological data resources. Studies of the clade reveal that their history of sympatric parallel adaptive radiation continues to influence community assembly today, highlighting questions on the nature and extent of coexistence mechanisms. Flexible phenology and hydraulic traits, despite evolutionary stasis, may have enabled adaptation to a wide range of environments within and across species, contributing to their high abundance and diversity. The oaks offer fundamental insights at the intersection of ecology and evolution on the role of diversification in community assembly processes, on the importance of flexibility in key functional traits in adapting to new environments, on factors contributing to persistence of long-lived organisms, and on evolutionary legacies that influence ecosystem function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-692
Number of pages24
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I would like to thank Scott Lanyon for first introducing me to the concept of model clades. I also wish to thank Rémy Petit, David Ackerly, an anonymous reviewer, and members of my lab who provided insights and useful feedback on the manuscript or technical assistance, including Shan Kothari, Beth Fallon, José Eduardo Meireles, Jesús Pinto-Ledezma and Anna Schweiger. Finally, I wish to thank a number of individuals, who helped me gain critical insights or provided information or other assistance: Charles Cannon, James Cavender, Nicole Cavender, Kent Caven-der-Bares, Alyson Center, Nicholas Deacon, Deren Eaton, Julie Etterson, Antonio González-Rodríguez, Paul Gugger, N. Michelle Holbrook, Andrew Hipp, Diana Jerome, Paul Manos, the late George Pilz, Ruth Shaw, JoséRamírez-Valiente, Jeanne Romero-Severson, Jorge Soberón, Pamela Soltis, Victoria Sork, Murphy Westwood, and the late John Tucker. This work was supported by NSF DEB 1146380 and IOS 0843665, NSF DEB-1342872 and NSF/NASA DEB-1342872.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author. New Phytologist © 2018 New Phytologist Trust


  • adaptive differentiation
  • community assembly
  • diversification
  • ecosystem function
  • evolutionary legacy
  • local adaptation
  • long-lived species
  • model clade

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Journal Article


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