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My second paper was published in Systematic Biology!


Our paper was published today on the cover of Proceedings B.


Here are the slides for my defense presentation


The video from my talk at the Evolution meeting in Portland is online!


My first paper is out and available in open access


Selected Publications

The fossil record shows that the vast majority of all species that ever existed are extinct and that most lineages go through an expansion and decline in diversity. However, macroevolutionary analyses based upon molecular phylogenies have difficulty inferring extinction dynamics, raising questions about whether the neontological record can contribute to an understanding of the decline phenomenon. Two recently developed diversification methods for molecular phylogenies (RPANDA and BAMM) incorporate models that theoretically have the capacity to capture decline dynamics by allowing extinction to be higher than speciation. However, the performance of these frameworks over a wide range of decline scenarios has not been studied. Here, we investigate the behavior of these methods under decline scenarios caused by decreasing speciation and increasing extinction through time on simulated trees at fixed intervals over diversity trajectories with expansion and decline phases. We also compared method performance over a comprehensive data set of 214 empirical trees. Our results show that both methods perform equally well when varying speciation rates control decline. When decline was only caused by an increase in extinction rates both methods wrongly assign the variation in net diversification to a drop in speciation, even though the positive gamma values of those trees would suggest otherwise. We also found a tendency for RPANDA to favor increasing extinction and BAMM to favor decreasing speciation as the most common cause of decline in empirical trees. Overall our results shed light on the limitations of both methods, encouraging researchers to carefully interpret the results from diversification studies.
In Syst Biol, 2018.

An increase in ecological opportunities, either through changes in the environment or acquisition of new traits, is frequently associated with an increase in species and morphological diversification. However, it is possible that certain ecological settings might prevent lineages from diversifying. Arboreality evolved multiple times in vipers, making them ideal organisms for exploring how potentially new ecological opportunities affect their morphology and speciation regimes. Arboreal snakes are frequently suggested to have a very specialized morphology, and being too large, too small, too heavy, or having short tails might be challenging for them. Using trait-evolution models, we show that arboreal vipers are evolving towards intermediate body sizes, with longer tails and more slender bodies than terrestrial vipers. Arboreality strongly constrains body size and circumference evolution in vipers, while terrestrial lineages are evolving towards a broader range of morphological variants. Trait-dependent diversification models, however, suggest similar speciation rates between microhabitats. Thus, we show that arboreality might constrain morphological evolution but not necessarily affect the rates at which lineages generate new species.
In Proc R Soc B, 2017.

Diet is commonly assumed to affect the evolution of species, but few studies have directly tested its effect at macroevolutionary scales. Here we use Bayesian models of trait-dependent diversification and a comprehensive dietary database of all birds worldwide to assess speciation and extinction dynamics of avian dietary guilds (carnivores, frugivores, granivores, herbivores, insectivores, nectarivores, omnivores and piscivores). Our results suggest that omnivory is associated with higher extinction rates and lower speciation rates than other guilds, and that overall net diversification is negative. Trait-dependent models, dietary similarity and network analyses show that transitions into omnivory occur at higher rates than into any other guild. We suggest that omnivory acts as macroevolutionary sink, where its ephemeral nature is retrieved through transitions from other guilds rather than from omnivore speciation. We propose that these dynamics result from competition within and among dietary guilds, influenced by the deep-time availability and predictability of food resources.
In NComms, 2016.