Life diversifies via adaptive radiation when natural selection drives the evolution of ecologically distinct species mediated by their access to novel niche space, or via non-adaptive radiation when new species diversify while retaining ancestral niches. However, while cases of adaptive radiation are widely documented, examples of non-adaptively radiating lineages remain rarely observed. A prolific cold-climate lizard radiation from South America ( Phymaturus), sister to a hyper-diverse adaptive radiation ( Liolaemus), has extensively diversified phylogenetically and geographically, but with exceptionally minimal ecological and life-history diversification. This lineage, therefore, may offer unique opportunities to investigate the non-adaptive basis of diversification, and in combination with Liolaemus, to cover the whole spectrum of modes of diversification predicted by theory, from adaptive to non-adaptive. Using phylogenetic macroevolutionary modelling performed on a newly created 58-species molecular tree, we establish the tempo and mode of diversification in the Phymaturus radiation.
Lineage accumulation in Phymaturus opposes a density-dependent (or ‘niche-filling’) process of diversification. Concurrently, we found that body size diversification is better described by an Ornstein-Uhlenbeck evolutionary model, suggesting stabilizing selection as the mechanism underlying niche conservatism (i.e., maintaining two fundamental size peaks), and which has predominantly evolved around two major adaptive peaks on a ‘Simpsonian’ adaptive landscape.
Lineage diversification of the Phymaturus genus does not conform to an adaptive radiation, as it is characterised by a constant rate of species accumulation during the clade’s history. Their strict habitat requirements (rocky outcrops), predominantly invariant herbivory, and especially the constant viviparous reproduction across species have likely limited their opportunities for adaptive diversifications throughout novel environments. This mode of diversification contrasts dramatically with its sister lineage Liolaemus, which geographically overlaps with Phymaturus, but exploits all possible microhabitats in these and other bioclimatic areas. Our study contributes importantly to consolidate these lizards (liolaemids) as promising model systems to investigate the entire spectrum of modes of species formations, from the adaptive to the non-adaptive extremes of the continuum.