How is the rate of climatic-niche evolution related to climatic-niche breadth?

M. Caitlin Fisher-Reid, Kenneth H. Kozak, John J. Wiens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


The rate of climatic-niche evolution is important to many research areas in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology, including responses of species to global climate change, spread of invasive species, speciation, biogeography, and patterns of species richness. Previous studies have implied that clades with higher rates of climatic-niche evolution among species should have species with narrower niche breadths, but there is also evidence suggesting the opposite pattern. However, the relationships between rate and breadth have not been explicitly analyzed. Here, we examine the relationships between the rate of climatic-niche evolution and climatic-niche breadth using phylogenetic and climatic data for 250 species in the salamander family Plethodontidae, a group showing considerable variation in both rates of climatic-niche evolution and climatic-niche breadths. Contrary to some expectations, we find no general relationship between climatic-niche breadth and the rate of climatic-niche evolution. Climatic-niche breadths for some ecologically important climatic variables considered separately (temperature seasonality and annual precipitation) do show significant relationships with the rate of climatic-niche evolution, but rates are faster in clades in which species have broader (not narrower) niche breadths. In summary, our results show that narrower niche breadths are not necessarily associated with faster rates of niche evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3836-3851
Number of pages16
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Amphibians
  • Climate
  • Niche conservatism
  • Niche evolution
  • Phylogeny
  • Plethodontidae


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