Species diversity gradients seen today are, to a large degree, a product of history. Spatially nonrandom originations, extinctions, and changes in geographic distributions can create gradients in species and higher-taxon richness, but the relative roles of each of these processes remain poorly documented. Existing explanations of diversity gradients have tended to focus on either macroevolutionary or biogeographic processes; integrative models that include both are largely lacking. We used simple models that incorporate origination and extinction rates along with dispersal of taxa between regions to show that dispersal not only affects regional richness patterns but also has a strong influence on the average age of taxa present in a region. Failure to take into account the effects of dispersal can, in principle, lead to biased estimates of diversification rates and potentially wrong conclusions regarding processes driving latitudinal and other gradients in diversity. Thus, it is critical to include the effects of dispersal when formulating and testing hypotheses about the causes of large-scale gradients in diversity. Finally, the model results, in conjunction with the results of existing empirical studies, suggest that the nature of macroevolutionary and biogeographic processes may differ between terrestrial and marine diversity gradients.
- Diversity gradient