Miocene biome turnover drove conservative body size evolution across Australian vertebrates

Ian G. Brennan*, J. Scott Keogh

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)


    On deep time scales, changing climatic trends can have a predictable influence on macroevolution. From evidence of mass extinctions, we know that rapid climatic oscillations can indirectly open niche space and precipitate adaptive radiation, changing the course of ecological diversification. These dramatic shifts in the global climate, however, are rare events relative to extended periods of protracted climate change and biome turnover. It remains unclear whether during gradually changing periods, shifting habitats may instead promote non-adaptive speciation by facilitating allopatry and phenotypic conservatism. Using fossil-calibrated, species-level phylogenies for five Australian radiations comprising more than 800 species, we investigated temporal trends in biogeography and body size evolution. Here, we demonstrate that gradual Miocene cooling and aridification correlates with the restricted phenotypic diversification of multiple ecologically diverse vertebrate groups. This probably occurred as species ranges became fractured and isolated during continental biome restructuring, encouraging a shift towards conservatism in body size evolution. Our results provide further evidence that abiotic changes, not only biotic interactions, may act as selective forces influencing phenotypic macroevolution.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20181474
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    Issue number1889
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2018


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