Does evolutionary relatedness predict ecological similarity?

Judith A. Sclafani, Curtis R. Congreve, Mark E. Patzkowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


A fundamental question in paleobiology is whether ecology is correlated with evolutionary history. By combining time-calibrated phylogenetic trees with genus occurrence data through time, we can understand how environmental preferences are distributed on a tree and evaluate support for models of ecological similarity. Exploring parameters that lend support to each evolutionary model will help address questions that lie at the nexus of the evolutionary and ecological sciences. We calculated ecological difference and phylogenetic distance between species pairs for 83 taxa used in recent phylogenetic revisions of the brachiopod order Strophomenida. Ecological difference was calculated as the pairwise distance along gradients of water depth, carbonate, and latitudinal affinity. Phylogenetic distance was calculated as the pairwise branch length between tips of the tree. Our results show no relationship between ecological affinity and phylogeny. Instead results suggest an ecological burst during the initial radiation of the clade. This pattern likely reflects scaling at the largest macroevolutionary and macroecological scales preserved in the fossil record. Hierarchical scaling of ecological and evolutionary processes is complex, but phylogenetic paleoecology is an avenue for better evaluating these questions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)284-300
Number of pages17
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Palaeontology


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