Authors: Alexandre, Hermine; Faure, Julie; Ginzbarg, Steven; Clark, John; Joly, Simon
Publication: Royal Society Open Science
Year: 2017
Genera: Gesneria, Rhytidophyllum

The study of the evolution of abiotic niches can be informative regarding the speciation drivers in a given group. Yet, two factors that could potentially affect niche evolution have seldom been addressed concomitantly, which are biotic interactions and geographical isolation. In this study, we used as a model group the Antillean plant genera Gesneria and Rhytidophyllum (Gesneriaceae) to evaluate the effect of pollinators and geographical isolation on the bioclimatic niche. These genera possess species characterized by interspecific geographical isolation in different islands and are pollinated by different pollinators. Some species are pollinated by hummingbirds, other by bats, while some are more generalists and are pollinated by pollinators from both functional groups. After describing the bioclimatic niches of plant species, we measured niche overlap for species pairs and we fitted Brownian motion and Ornstein–Uhlenbeck (OU) evolution models with multiple evolutionary regimes to test for an effect of pollination strategy or geographical isolation on bioclimatic niche evolution of these plants. The analysis of niche overlap between plant species, which could not be corrected for phylogenetic relationships, showed that it was significantly influenced by pollination mode and island distribution. By contrast, the best fitting evolutionary model on niche optima and tolerance was always an OU model with a unique selective regime, suggesting that neither pollination strategy nor island isolation had an important effect on bioclimatic niches at a macroevolutionary scale. Instead, we conclude that bioclimatic niches of Antillean Gesneriaceae evolved under phylogenetic conservatism and hypothesize that this macroevolutionary pattern could result from adaptation to temporally variable climates in the Antilles.