A broad scale analysis of the evolution of viviparity across nearly 4,000 species of squamates revealed that origins increase in frequency toward the present, raising the question of whether rates of change have accelerated. We here use simulations to show that the increased frequency is within the range expected given that the number of squamate lineages also increases with time. Novel, epoch-based methods implemented in BEAST (which allow rates of discrete character evolution to vary across time-slices) also give congruent results, with recent epochs having very similar rates to older epochs. Thus, contrary to expectations, there was no accelerated burst of origins of viviparity in response to global cooling during the Cenozoic or glacial cycles during the Plio-Pleistocene. However, if one accepts the conventional view that viviparity is more likely to evolve than to be lost, and also the evidence here that viviparity has evolved with similar regularity throughout the last 200Ma, then the absence of large, ancient clades of viviparous squamates (analogs to therian mammals) requires explanation. Viviparous squamate lineages might be more prone to extinction than are oviparous lineages, due to their prevalance at high elevations and latitudes and thus greater susceptibility to climate fluctuations. If so, the directional bias in character evolution would be offset by the bias in extinction rates.
|Number of pages||7|
|Journal||JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL ZOOLOGY PART B-MOLECULAR AND DEVELOPMENTAL EVOLUTION|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Sep 2015|