Geographic patterns of species richness ultimately arise through the processes of speciation, extinction, and dispersal, but relatively few studies consider evolutionary and biogeographic processes in explaining these diversity patterns. One explanation for high tropical species richness is that many species-rich clades originated in tropical regions and spread to temperate regions infrequently and more recently, leaving little time for species richness to accumulate there (assuming similar rates of diversification in temperate and tropical regions). However, the major clades of anurans (frogs) and salamanders may offer a compelling counterexample. Most salamander families are predominately temperate in distribution, but the one primarily tropical clade (Bolitoglossinae) contains nearly half of all salamander species. Similarly, most basal clades of anurans are predominately temperate, but one largely tropical clade (Neobatrachia) contains ∼96% of anurans. In this article, I examine patterns of diversification in frogs and salamanders and their relationship to large-scale patterns of species richness in amphibians. I find that diversification rates in both frogs and salamanders increase significantly with decreasing latitude. These results may shed light on both the evolutionary causes of the latitudinal diversity gradient and the dramatic but poorly explained disparities in the diversity of living amphibian clades.
- Species richness
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics