CIE Spotlight: Unveiling the Diversification Dynamics of Australasian Predaceous Diving Beetles in the Cenozoic

Nicholas P.
Nick P.

TitleUnveiling the Diversification Dynamics of Australasian Predaceous Diving Beetles in the Cenozoic

Authors: Toussaint, Emmanuel F. A.; Condamine, Fabien L.; Hawlitschek, Oliver;
Watts, Chris H.; Porch, Nick; Hendrich, Lars; Balke, Michael

Source: SYSTEMATIC BIOLOGY, 64 (1):3-24, JAN 2015

Brief summary of the paper: During the Cenozoic, Australia experienced major climatic shifts that have had dramatic ecological consequences for the modern biota. Mesic tropical ecosystems were progressively restricted to the coasts and replaced by arid-adapted floral and faunal communities.

Whilst the role of aridification has been investigated in a wide range of terrestrial lineages, the response of freshwater clades remains poorly investigated. To gain insights into the diversification processes underlying a freshwater radiation, we studied the evolutionary history of the Australasian predaceous diving beetles of the tribe Hydroporini (147 described species).

We used an integrative approach including the latest methods in phylogenetics, divergence time estimation, ancestral character state reconstruction, and likelihood-based methods of diversification rate estimation. Phylogenies and dating analyses were reconstructed with molecular data from seven genes (mitochondrial and nuclear) for 117 species (plus 12 outgroups). Robust and well-resolved phylogenies indicate a late Oligocene origin of Australasian Hydroporini. Biogeographic analyses suggest an origin in the East Coast region of Australia, and a dynamic biogeographic scenario implying dispersal events.

The group successfully colonized the tropical coastal regions carved by a rampant desertification, and also colonized groundwater ecosystems in Central Australia. Diversification rate analyses suggest that the ongoing aridification of Australia initiated in the Miocene contributed to a major wave of extinctions since the late Pliocene probably attributable to an increasing aridity, range contractions and seasonally disruptions resulting from Quaternary climatic changes.

When comparing subterranean and epigean genera, our results show that contrasting mechanisms drove their diversification and therefore current diversity pattern. The Australasian Hydroporini radiation reflects a combination of processes that promoted both diversification, resulting from new ecological opportunities driven by initial aridification, and a subsequent loss of mesic adapted diversity due to increasing aridity.