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Data from: Neutral biogeography and the evolution of climatic niches


Boucher, Florian C.; Thuiller, Wilfried; Davies, T. Jonathan; Lavergne, Sébastien (2013), Data from: Neutral biogeography and the evolution of climatic niches, Dryad, Dataset,


Recent debate on whether climatic niches are conserved through time has focused on how phylogenetic niche conservatism can be measured by deviations from a Brownian motion model of evolutionary change. However, there has been no evaluation of this methodological approach. In particular, the fact that climatic niches are usually obtained from distribution data and are thus heavily influenced by biogeographic factors has largely been overlooked. Our main objective here was to test whether patterns of climatic niche evolution that are frequently observed might arise from neutral dynamics rather than adaptive scenarios. We develop a model inspired by Neutral Biodiversity Theory, where individuals disperse, compete, and undergo speciation independently of climate. We then sample the climatic niches of species according to their geographic position and show that even when species evolved independently of climate, their niches can nonetheless exhibit evolutionary patterns strongly differing from Brownian motion. Indeed, climatic niche evolution is better captured by a model of punctuated evolution with constraints due to landscape boundaries, two features that are traditionally interpreted as evidence for selective processes acting on the niche. We therefore suggest that deviation from Brownian motion alone should not be used as evidence for phylogenetic niche conservatism, but that information on phenotypic traits directly linked to physiology is required to demonstrate that climatic niches have been conserved through time.

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