Some like it warm, others cold–but most prefer moderate

Study shows highest number of species at the center of a genus' temperature range

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 18,560 species occurrences
Dalbergia riedelii
Dalbergia riedelii by Rodolfo Vásquez, Missouri Botanical Garden. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

According to phylogenetic niche conservatism (PNC), closely related taxa share similar distributions along major environmental gradients, e.g. temperature. The probability of a species evolving within the range of its ancestor is therefore high.

Using a novel approach to testing the PNC theory, authors compared disjunct genera on separate continents with a shared ancestor, but few common species. By compiling GBIF-mediated occurrence data of eight woody phanerophyte genera in two regions differing in extent and complexity–the Nepalese Himalayas and the Peruvian Andes–they analyzed 997 species along a temperature gradient.

All Himalayan genera showed a unimodal response with more species in the center of the temperature range. In the Andes, three genera were most speciose towards the warm end of the gradient. By statistical ranking, the authors were able to successfully predict the order of Andean genera based on Himalayan genera–and vice versa.

The study shows that temperature tolerances within a clade are conserved over time and space, and supports the notion that the highest number of species are found around the center of a temperature range of a genus.

Link to original article

Vetaas OR, Grytnes J-A, Bhatta KP and Hawkins BA (2018) An intercontinental comparison of niche conservatism along a temperature gradient. Journal of Biogeography. Wiley 45(5): 1104–1113. Available at: