Royal Society Publishing


The latitudinal gradient in species richness is a pervasive feature of the living world, but its underlying causes remain unclear. We evaluated the hypothesis that environmental energy drives evolutionary rates and thereby diversification in flowering plants. We estimated energy levels across angiosperm family distributions in terms of evapotranspiration, temperature and UV radiation taken from satellite and climate databases. Using the most comprehensive DNA–based phylogenetic tree for angiosperms to date, analysis of 86 sister–family comparisons shows that molecular evolutionary rates have indeed been faster in high–energy regions, but that this is not an intermediate step between energy and diversity. Energy has strong, but independent effects on both species richness and molecular evolutionary rates.

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