Evolution of geographical place and niche space: Patterns of diversification in the North American sedge (Cyperaceae) flora

Daniel Spalink, Bryan T. Drew, Matthew C. Pace, John G. Zaborsky, Pan Li, Kenneth M. Cameron, Thomas J. Givnish, Kenneth J. Sytsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The role of geography and ecology in speciation are often discussed in the context of phylogenetic niche conservatism (PNC), the propensity of lineages to retain ancestral niche related traits. However, a recent paradigm shift focuses instead on measuring divergence of these traits in conjunction with patterns of speciation. Under this framework, we analyzed the diversification of North America's third most diverse family, Cyperaceae ("sedges"), using a modified Parsimony Analysis of Endemicity approach to identify floristic regions and ordination statistics to quantify species distribution in a continuous manner. Utilizing over 200,000 georeferenced specimens, we characterized the geographical distribution and climatic and edaphic niche space occupied by each species. We constructed a supermatrix phylogeny of the North American sedge flora, aided in part by the sequencing of all sedges of Wisconsin, and employed a multifaceted approach to assess the role of geographical and ecological divergence on lineage diversification. In addition to measuring phylogenetic signal for these traits, we also measured pairwise phylogenetic distance of species within floristic regions, calculated rates of speciation, and tested for correlations of speciation rate to tempo of geographical and ecological evolution. Our analyses consistently show that evolutionarily related species tend to be geographically unrelated. Rates of geographical and ecological diversification are closely linked to tempo of speciation, and exploration of geographical place coincides with divergence in ecological niche space. We highlight the benefits of treating geography in a continuous manner, and stress the importance of employing a diverse suite of analytical approaches in testing hypotheses regarding the evolution of range and niche.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-195
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Biogeography
  • Museum collections
  • Phylogenetic niche conservatism
  • Phylogenetic signal
  • Range and niche evolution
  • Rates of evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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