Reconstructing historical shifts in suitable habitat of Sceloporus lineages using phylogenetic niche modelling

Julio A. Rivera, A. Michelle Lawing, Emília P. Martins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Aim: We tested whether we could detect geographical shifts in modelled-suitable habitat. We aim to enhance phylogenetic niche models of past suitable habitats for Sceloporus lineages by integrating modern and fossil occurrences with ecological and phylogenetic comparative modelling methods. Specifically, we hypothesized that our integrated approach is sensitive enough to detect geographical shifts in suitable habitat between lineages and through evolutionary time. Location: North America. Taxon: Sceloporus lizards. Methods: We used extant and fossil occurrence data, general circulation models of palaeoclimate, climate envelope modelling and phylogenetic comparative methods to reconstruct past suitable climates for Sceloporus lizards over the last 20 million years, and then visualized the geographical locations of individual lineages using multivariate environmental similarity surfaces (MESS) maps. Results: We were able to reconstruct ancestral suitable climate for Sceloporus lineages with sufficient resolution to identify shifts in geographical location between lineages. We found that large shifts in climate regimes drove the expansion and contraction of suitable habitat through time. We found a positive association between tectonic events, like mountain uplift, and lineage diversification in the Sceloporus clade. Mountain uplift also facilitated the emergence of open grassland habitat, which excluded many Sceloporus species. Main conclusions: Our approach was sensitive enough to detect differences in geographical location of suitable habitat across lineages and through evolutionary time. Doing so is a critical first step to tracking the evolutionary ecology of individual taxa over long periods of evolutionary time, and to inferring which species co-existed in which locations. Such inferences would allow for more precise predictions of current and future ecological needs for conservation efforts, and to inform efforts to mitigate climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2117-2128
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Sceloporus
  • palaeobiogeography
  • palaeoclimate
  • phylogenetic comparative methods
  • phylogenetic niche modelling
  • suitable habitat reconstruction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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