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Data from: Mutualism with plants drives primate diversification

Cite this dataset

Gómez, José María; Verdú, Miguel (2012). Data from: Mutualism with plants drives primate diversification [Dataset]. Dryad.


Understanding the origin of diversity is a fundamental problem in biology. Evolutionary diversification has been intensely explored during the last years due to the development of molecular tools and the comparative method. However, most studies are conducted using only information from extant species. This approach probably leads to misleading conclusions, especially because of inaccuracy in the estimation of extinction rates. It is critical to integrate the information generated by extant organisms with the information obtained from the fossil record. Unfortunately, this integrative approach has been seldom performed, and thus our understanding of the factors fueling diversification is still deficient. Ecological interactions are a main factor shaping evolutionary diversification by influencing speciation and extinction rates. Most attention has focused on the effect of antagonistic interactions on evolutionary diversification. In contrast, the role of mutualistic interactions in shaping diversification has been much less explored. In this study, by combining phylogenetic, neontological and paleontological information, we show that a facultative mutualistic plant-animal interaction emerging from frugivory and seed dispersal has most likely contributed to the diversification of our own lineage, the primates. We compiled diet and seed dispersal ability in 381 extant and 556 extinct primates. Using well-established molecular phylogenies, we demonstrated that mutualistic extant primates had higher speciation rates, lower extinction rates and thereby higher diversification rates than non-mutualistic ones. Similarly, mutualistic fossil primates had higher geological durations and smaller per capita rates of extinction than non-mutualistic ones. As a mechanism underlying this pattern, we found that mutualistic extinct and extant primates have significantly larger geographic ranges, which promotes diversification by hampering extinction and increasing geographic speciation. All these outcomes together strongly suggest that the establishment of a facultative mutualism with plants has greatly benefited primate evolution and fueled its taxonomic diversification.

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