Special Reviews

Adaptive Radiation: Contrasting Theory with Data

Science  06 Feb 2009:
Vol. 323, Issue 5915, pp. 732-737
DOI: 10.1126/science.1157966

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Abstract

Biologists have long been fascinated by the exceptionally high diversity displayed by some evolutionary groups. Adaptive radiation in such clades is not only spectacular, but is also an extremely complex process influenced by a variety of ecological, genetic, and developmental factors and strongly dependent on historical contingencies. Using modeling approaches, we identify 10 general patterns concerning the temporal, spatial, and genetic/morphological properties of adaptive radiation. Some of these are strongly supported by empirical work, whereas for others, empirical support is more tentative. In almost all cases, more data are needed. Future progress in our understanding of adaptive radiation will be most successful if theoretical and empirical approaches are integrated, as has happened in other areas of evolutionary biology.

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