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Title: Global patterns and processes in avian diversification
Author: Cooney, Christopher Richard
ISNI:       0000 0004 5354 5426
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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The natural world consists of a vast array of forms, some more plentiful than others, yet our understanding of the processes responsible the production of biological diversity remains surprisingly limited. Here I combine novel datasets with powerful phylogenetic modeling techniques and computer simulations to test the effects of both biotic and abiotic factors on the dynamics of species radiations and the evolution of organism traits in birds. In the first part of this thesis, I develop our understanding of the importance of abiotic factors for diversification by showing that in the early stages of lineage diversification at least, rapid adaptation to novel climatic conditions is likely to represent a prominent driver of avian diversification. In the second part I concentrate on the role of biotic factors, in particular that of sexual selection. I show that not only is sexual selection associated with accelerated rates of speciation and secondary sympatry—as well as faster rates of net diversification across the entire avian tree of life—but also that across-species variation in rates of phenotypic evolution is best understood with reference to the focus and intensity of sexual selection. Finally, given that the relative importance of such processes appears to vary predictably across latitudes, in the final part of the thesis I argue that latitudinal differences in the speciation process offers a potentially powerful explanation for conflicting viewpoints regarding the contribution of speciation to high tropical diversity. Overall, this work provides fresh insight into the processes governing broad-scale patterns in biodiversity.
Supervisor: Seddon, Nathalie; Tobias, Joseph A. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Evolution (zoology) ; Speciation ; diversification ; ecology ; sexual selection ; latitudinal gradients ; birds