Quantitative tests of historical hypotheses are necessary to advance our understanding of biogeographic patterns of species distributions, but direct tests are often hampered by incomplete fossil or historical records. Here we present an alternative approach in which we develop a dynamic model that allows us to test hypotheses about regional rates of taxon origination, extinction, and dispersal using information on ages and current distributions of taxa. With this model, we test two assumptions traditionally made in the context of identifying regions as "centers of origin" - that regions with high origination rates will have high diversity and high endemism. We find that these assumptions are not necessarily valid. We also develop expressions for the regional age distributions of extant taxa and show that these may yield better insight into regional evolutionary rates. We then apply our model to data on the biogeography and ages of extant genera of marine bivalves and conclude that diversity in polar regions predominantly reflects dispersal of taxa that evolved elsewhere rather than in situ origination-extinction dynamics.
- Marine bivalve