Global topographic uplift has elevated speciation in mammals and birds over the last 3 million years


Change log

Abstract: Topographic change shapes the evolution of biodiversity by influencing both habitat connectivity and habitat diversity as well as abiotic factors like climate. However, its role in creating global biodiversity gradients remains poorly characterized because geology, climate and evolutionary data have rarely been integrated across concordant timescales. Here we show that topographic uplift over the last 3 million years explains more spatial variation in the speciation of all mammals and birds than do the direct effects of palaeoclimate change and both present-day elevation and present-day temperature. By contrast, the effects of topographic changes are much smaller than those of present-day temperatures in eroded areas. Together, our results stress that historical geological processes rather than traditionally studied macroecological gradients may ultimately generate much of the world’s biodiversity. More broadly, as the Earth’s surface continues to rise and fall, topography will remain an important driver of evolutionary change and novelty.

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Online Publication Date
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Article, /631/181/759, /631/158/670, /631/158/2462, article
Journal Title
Nature Ecology & Evolution
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Nature Publishing Group UK
Wellcome Trust (Wellcome) (105602/Z/14/Z)
Gatsby Charitable Foundation (GAT2962)
Isaac Newton Trust (17.24r)