Ecological opportunity alters the timing and shape of adaptive radiation

Edward D. Burress, Milton Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The uneven distribution of diversity is a conspicuous phenomenon across the tree of life. Ecological opportunity is a prominent catalyst of adaptive radiation and therefore may alter patterns of diversification. We evaluated the distribution of shifts in diversification rates across the cichlid phylogeny and the distribution of major clades across phylogenetic space. We also tested if ecological opportunity influenced these patterns. Colonization-associated ecological opportunity altered the tempo and mode of diversification during the adaptive radiation of cichlid fishes. Clades that arose following colonization events diversified faster than other clades. Speciation rate shifts were nonrandomly distributed across the phylogeny such that they were disproportionally concentrated around nodes that corresponded with colonization events (i.e., of continents, river basins, or lakes). Young clades tend to expand faster than older clades; however, colonization-associated ecological opportunity accentuated this pattern. There was an interaction between clade age and ecological opportunity that explained the trajectory of clades through phylogenetic space over time. Our results indicate that ecological opportunities afforded by continental and ecosystem-scale colonization events explain the dramatic speciation rate heterogeneity and phylogenetic imbalance that arose during the evolutionary history of cichlid fishes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2650-2660
Number of pages11
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • BAMM
  • colonization
  • diversification
  • evolution
  • macroevolution
  • speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Ecological opportunity alters the timing and shape of adaptive radiation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this