Ecological opportunity may facilitate diversification in Palearctic freshwater organisms: a case study on hydrobiid gastropods
BACKGROUND: Differences in species richness among phylogenetic clades are attributed to clade age and/or variation in diversification rates. Access to ecological opportunity may trigger a temporary increase in diversification rates and ecomorphological variation. In addition, lower body temperatures in poikilothermic animals may result in ... decreasing speciation rates as proposed by the metabolic theory of ecology. For strictly freshwater organisms, environmental gradients within a river continuum, linked to elevation and temperature, might promote access to ecological opportunity and alter metabolic rates, eventually influencing speciation and extinction processes. To test these hypotheses, we investigated the influence of environmental temperature and elevation, as proxies for body temperature and ecological opportunity, respectively, on speciation rates and ecomorphological divergence. As model systems served two closely related gastropod genera with unequal species richness and habitat preferences - Pseudamnicola and Corrosella.RESULTS: Lineage-through-time plots and Bayesian macroevolutionary modeling evidenced that Pseudamnicola species, which typically live in lower reaches of rivers, displayed significantly elevated speciation rates in comparison to the ´headwater genus´ Corrosella. Moreover, state-dependent speciation models suggested that the speciation rate increased with decreasing elevation, supporting the ecological opportunity hypothesis. In contrast, a significant effect of environmental temperature, as proposed by the metabolic theory of ecology, could not be observed. Disparity-through-time plots, models of ecomorphological evolution, and ancestral habitat estimation showed for Pseudamnicola species rapid morphological divergence shortly after periods of elevational and habitat divergence. In contrast, Corrosella species did not deviate from null models of drift-like evolution.CONCLUSION: Our finding that speciation rates are correlated with elevation and ecomorphological disparity but not with environmental temperatures suggests that differences in ecological opportunity may have played a key role in Corrosella and Pseudamnicola diversifications. We propose that Pseudamnicola lineages experienced higher ecological opportunity through dispersal to new locations or habitats in lowlands, which may explain the increase in speciation rates and morphological change. In contrast, the evolution of Corrosella in headwaters is likely less facilitated by the environment and more by non-ecological processes.