Positive association between population genetic differentiation and speciation rates in New World birds

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An implicit assumption of speciation biology is that population differentiation is an important stage of evolutionary diversification, but its significance as a rate-limiting control on phylogenetic speciation dynamics remains largely untested. If population differentiation within a species is related to its speciation rate over evolutionary time, the causes of differentiation could also be driving dynamics of organismal diversity across time and space. Alternatively, geographic variants might be short-lived entities with rates of formation that are unlinked to speciation rates, in which case the causes of differentiation would have only ephemeral impacts. By pairing population genetics datasets from173 NewWorld bird species (>17,000 individuals) with phylogenetic estimates of speciation rate, we show that the population differentiation rates within species are positively correlated with their speciation rates over long timescales. Although population differentiation rate explains relatively little of the variation in speciation rate among lineages, the positive relationship between differentiation rate and speciation rate is robust to species-delimitation schemes and to alternative measures of both rates. Population differentiation occurs at least three times faster than speciation, which suggests that most populations are ephemeral. Speciation and population differentiation rates are more tightly linked in tropical species than in temperate species, consistent with a history of more stable diversification dynamics through time in the Tropics. Overall, our results suggest that the processes responsible for population differentiation are tied to those that underlie broad-scale patterns of diversity.

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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