Climatic niches have increasingly become a nexus in our understanding of a variety of ecological and evolutionary phenomena, from species distributions to latitudinal diversity gradients. Despite the increasing availability of comprehensive datasets on species ranges, phylogenetic histories, and georeferenced environmental conditions, studies on the evolution of climate niches have only begun to understand how niches evolve over evolutionary timescales. Here, using primates as a model system, we integrate recently developed phylogenetic comparative methods, species distribution patterns, and climatic data to explore primate climatic niche evolution, both among clades and over time. In general, we found that simple, constant-rate models provide a poor representation of how climatic niches evolve. For instance, there have been shifts in the rate of climatic niche evolution in several independent clades, particularly in response to the increasingly cooler climates of the past 10 My. Interestingly, rate accelerations greatly outnumbered rate decelerations. These results highlight the importance of considering more realistic evolutionary models that allow for the detection of heterogeneity in the tempo and mode of climatic niche evolution, as well as to infer possible constraining factors for species distributions in geographical space.
- Phylogenetic comparative methods
- Rate heterogeneity