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Global patterns of speciation and diversity


In recent years, strikingly consistent patterns of biodiversity have been identified over space, time, organism type and geographical region1,2. A neutral theory (assuming no environmental selection or organismal interactions) has been shown to predict many patterns of ecological biodiversity2,3. This theory is based on a mechanism by which new species arise similarly to point mutations in a population without sexual reproduction. Here we report the simulation of populations with sexual reproduction, mutation and dispersal. We found simulated time dependence of speciation rates, species–area relationships and species abundance distributions consistent with the behaviours found in nature1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13. From our results, we predict steady speciation rates, more species in one-dimensional environments than two-dimensional environments, three scaling regimes of species–area relationships and lognormal distributions of species abundance with an excess of rare species and a tail that may be approximated by Fisher’s logarithmic series. These are consistent with dependences reported for, among others, global birds4 and flowering plants5, marine invertebrate fossils6, ray-finned fishes7, British birds8,9 and moths10, North American songbirds11, mammal fossils from Kansas12 and Panamanian shrubs13. Quantitative comparisons of specific cases are remarkably successful. Our biodiversity results provide additional evidence that species diversity arises without specific physical barriers6,11,14. This is similar to heavy traffic flows, where traffic jams can form even without accidents or barriers15.

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Figure 1: Time evolution for 2,000 individuals on a 128 × 128 lattice.
Figure 2: Spatial snapshots after 1,000 generations for 2,000 individuals on a 128 × 128 lattice.
Figure 3: Species abundance.


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We acknowledge internal support by the New England Complex Systems Institute. M.A.M.d.A. and E.M.B. acknowledge financial support from the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo and the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, and L.K. from the Marine Management Area Science Programof Conservation International and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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Correspondence to Y. Bar-Yam.

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de Aguiar, M., Baranger, M., Baptestini, E. et al. Global patterns of speciation and diversity. Nature 460, 384–387 (2009).

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