“Does population structure predict the rate of speciation? A comparative test across Australia's most diverse vertebrate radiation”

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Sonal Singhal, Huateng Huang, Maggie R. Grundler, María R. Marchán-Rivadeneira, Iris Holmes, Pascal O. Title, Stephen C. Donnellan, and Daniel L. Rabosky (Oct 2018)

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Ctenotus dux (the narrow-lined Ctenotus). Lorna Glen, Western Australia, Australia, 2015.
(Credit: Pascal O. Title)


Population divergence is the first step in allopatric speciation, as has long been recognized in both theoretical models of speciation and empirical explorations of natural systems. All else being equal, lineages with substantial population differentiation should form new species more quickly than lineages that maintain range-wide genetic cohesion through high levels of gene flow. However, there have been few direct tests of the extent to which population differentiation predicts speciation rates as measured on phylogenetic trees. Here, we explicitly test the links between organismal traits, population-level processes, and phylogenetic speciation rates across a diverse clade of Australian lizards that shows remarkable variation in speciation rate. Using genome-wide ddRAD data from 892 individuals, we generated a comparative dataset on isolation-by-distance and population differentiation across 104 putative species-level lineages (OTUs). We find that species show substantial variation in the extent of population differentiation, and this variation is predicted by organismal traits that are thought to be proxies for dispersal and deme size. However, variation in population structure does not predict variation in speciation rate. Our results suggest that population differentiation is not the rate-limiting step in species formation and that other ecological and historical factors are primary determinants of speciation rates at macroevolutionary scales.