Effects of phylogeny and geography on ecomorphological traits in passerine bird clades

Aim: Closely related species are often morphologically similar due to their shared evolutionary history. This similarity can restrict their geographic distribution, as processes such as interspecific competition might prevent species from co-occurring if they resemble each other too closely. There is still little understanding of the relative strengths of such phylogenetic and geographic effects on the morphological diversity of species within a clade. Here, we compare phylogenetic effects with geographic effects across multiple clades of passerine birds to understand the roles of evolutionary history and geographic patterns on the ecomorphological characteristics of species. Location: Global Methods: We combine phylogenetic and geographic approaches to investigate and compare their effects on patterns of ecomorphological distinctness, i.e. the relative position of species in multidimensional ecomorphological trait space. The trait space was based on measurements from preserved specimens, representing ecologically relevant morphological adaptations across almost 500 species in eight clades of the order Passeriformes. Results: Ecomorphological distinctness increased with phylogenetic distance across species in all clades, whereas there was no significant relationship between geographic and ecomorphological distinctness in any clade. However, we observed a significant interaction between phylogenetic and geographic effects on ecomorphological distinctness. Closely related species were ecomorphologically indistinct if in geographic proximity, while at large geographic distances, there was no relationship between phylogenetic and ecomorphological distinctness. Main conclusions: We conclude that phylogenetic relationships are influential in shaping ecomorphological traits in passerine bird clades, but that this effect depends on the geographic distributions of species. Closely related species were only ecomorphologically similar when geographically close, suggesting a signal of allopatric speciation. Our results imply that studies identifying phylogenetic effects in species’ traits should not focus exclusively on these but instead evaluate the interaction of phylogenetic effects with geographic effects.

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Dataset DOI: doi:10.12761/sgn.2018.10225

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Geographic coverage
Geographic description Global
Bounding coordinates
North: 90.0
West: -180.0
East: 180.0
South: -90.0
Temporal coverage
Timestep November 1, 2014
Taxonomic coverage
Family Cardinalidae
Family Parulidae (Setophaga-Myiothlypis clade)
Family Tyrannidae (Xolmiini clade)
Family Muscicapidae (Oenanthe-Monticola clade)
Family Turdidae (genus Turdus)
Family Hirundinidae
Family Vireonidae
Family Corvidae (genus Corvus)
General taxonomic description The following clades were chosen across the order of passerine birds (Aves: Passeriformes) based on morphological diversity, high phylogenetic resolution, and a similar species richness in each clade: Cardinalidae, Parulidae (Setophaga-Myiothlypis clade), Tyrannidae (Xolmiini clade), Muscicapidae (Oenanthe-Monticola clade), Turdidae (genus Turdus), Hirundinidae, Vireonidae, Corvidae (genus Corvus). Species names follow IOC taxonomy v 5.01.
Other info
Last Updated March 10, 2021, 15:16 (UTC)
Created December 17, 2020, 15:46 (UTC)

Responsible parties

Name Anna Phillips
Organization affiliations
Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F)


Name Susanne Fritz
Organization affiliations
Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F)

Senckenberganlage 25
60325 Frankfurt am Main

Associated party
Name Anna Phillips

Associated party
Name Susanne Fritz

Associated party
Name Katrin Böhning-Gaese

Research data management planning

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