Model for macroevolutionary dynamics

Yosef E. Maruvka, Nadav M. Shnerb, David A. Kessler, Robert E. Ricklefs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The highly skewed distribution of species among genera, although challenging to macroevolutionists, provides an opportunity to understand the dynamics of diversification, including species formation, extinction, and morphological evolution. Early models were based on either the work by Yule [Yule GU (1925) Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 213:21-87], which neglects extinction, or a simple birth-death (speciation-extinction) process. Here, we extend the more recent development of a generic, neutral speciation-extinction (of species)-origination (of genera; SEO) model for macroevolutionary dynamics of taxon diversification. Simulations show that deviations from the homogeneity assumptions in the model can be detected in species-per-genus distributions. The SEO model fits observed species-per-genus distributions well for class-to-kingdom-sized taxonomic groups. Themodel's predictions for the appearance times (the time of the first existing species) of the taxonomic groups also approximately match estimates based on molecular inference and fossil records. Unlike estimates based on analyses of phylogenetic reconstruction, fitted extinction rates for large clades are close to speciation rates, consistent with high rates of species turnover and the relatively slow change in diversity observed in the fossil record. Finally, the SEO model generally supports the consistency of generic boundaries based on morphological differences between species and provides a comparator for rates of lineage splitting and morphological evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E2460-E2469
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number27
StatePublished - 2 Jul 2013


  • Diversification rate
  • Genera origination
  • Linnean taxonomy
  • Species-within-genus statistics


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