The impact of endothermy on the climatic niche evolution and the distribution of vertebrate diversity

  • Nature Ecology & Evolutionvolume 2pages459464 (2018)
  • doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0451-9
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Understanding the mechanisms by which the abiotic and biotic requirements of species, or ecological niches, change over time is a central issue in evolutionary biology. Niche evolution is poorly understood at both the macroecological and macroevolutionary scales, as niches can shift over short periods of time but appear to change more slowly over longer timescales. Although reconstructing past niches has always been a major concern for palaeontologists and evolutionary biologists, only a few recent studies have successfully determined the factors that affect niche evolution. Here, we compare the evolution of climatic niches in four main groups of terrestrial vertebrates using a modelling approach integrating both palaeontological and neontological data, and large-scale datasets that contain information on the current distributions, phylogenetic relationships and fossil records for a total of 11,465 species. By reconstructing historical shifts in geographical ranges and climatic niches, we show that niche shifts are significantly faster in endotherms (birds and mammals) than in ectotherms (squamates and amphibians). We further demonstrate that the diversity patterns of the four clades are directly affected by the rate of niche evolution, with fewer latitudinal shifts in ectotherms.

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Change history

  • Correction 13 February 2018

    In the version of this Article originally published, in Fig. 3a the first boundary was incorrectly labelled the “K/T boundary”; it should have read the “K/Pg boundary”. The two equations in the main text were incorrectly omitted from the HTML. In the description of the posterior distribution of an ancestral state, the normal distribution was incorrectly described as being “assigned as prior to the node value”; it should have read “assigned as calibration to the node value”. In the associated equation (the second equation in the text), the denominator of the last term was incorrectly given as “Node prior”; it should have read “Node calibration”. In the same equation, the numerator of the third term on the right-hand side of the equation contained incorrect superscript notation on the x and this is shown in the full equation in the notice below.


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The authors thank the Vital-IT facilities of the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics for the computational support. J.R. received a Banting postdoctoral fellowship at university of British Columbia. D. Silvestro received funding from the Swedish Research Council (2015-04748) and from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg foundation. This work was funded by the University of Lausanne and the Swiss National Science Foundation (CRSIII3-147630) to N.S.

Author information


  1. Department of Computational Biology, Biophore, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

    • Jonathan Rolland
    • , Daniele Silvestro
    •  & Nicolas Salamin
  2. Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Quartier Sorge, Lausanne, Switzerland

    • Jonathan Rolland
    • , Daniele Silvestro
    •  & Nicolas Salamin
  3. Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

    • Jonathan Rolland
    •  & Dolph Schluter
  4. Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

    • Daniele Silvestro
  5. Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Centre, Gothenburg, Sweden

    • Daniele Silvestro
  6. Department of Ecology and Evolution, Biophore, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

    • Antoine Guisan
    •  & Olivier Broennimann
  7. Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, Geopolis, University of Lausanne, 1015, Lausanne, Switzerland

    • Antoine Guisan
    •  & Olivier Broennimann


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J.R., D.S. and N.S. designed the study and the methodology. J.R. wrote the first version of the manuscript and all co-authors contributed to the writing or commented the final version of the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jonathan Rolland.

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    Supplementary Methods and Results, Supplementary References, Supplementary Figures 1–11, Supplementary Tables 1–4.

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