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Acknowledging uncertainty in evolutionary reconstructions of ecological niches     
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  • Hannah Owens,
  • Vivian Ribeiro,
  • Erin Saupe,
  • Marlon E. Cobos,
  • Peter Hosner,
  • Jacob Cooper,
  • Abdallah Samy,
  • Vijay Barve,
  • Narayani Barve,
  • Carlos Muñoz,
  • A. Townsend Peterson
Hannah Owens
University of Copenhagen
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Vivian Ribeiro
Stockholm Environment Institute
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Erin Saupe
University of Oxford Department of Earth Sciences
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Marlon E. Cobos
University of Kansas
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Peter Hosner
University of Copenhagen
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Jacob Cooper
University of Chicago Committee on Evolutionary Biology
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Abdallah Samy
Ain Shams University Faculty of Science
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Vijay Barve
University of Florida
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Narayani Barve
University of Florida
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Carlos Muñoz
UNAM
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A. Townsend Peterson
University of Kansas
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Abstract

Reconstructing ecological niche evolution can provide insight into the biogeography and diversification of evolving lineages. However, comparative phylogenetic methods can infer the history of ecological niche evolution inaccurately because (1) species’ niches are often poorly characterized; and (2) phylogenetic comparative methods rely on niche summary statistics rather than full estimates of species’ environmental tolerances. Here we propose a new framework for coding ecological niches and reconstructing their evolution that explicitly acknowledges and incorporates the uncertainty introduced by incomplete niche characterization. Then, we modify existing ancestral state inference methods to leverage full estimates of environmental tolerances. We provide a worked empirical example of our method, investigating ecological niche evolution in the New World orioles (Aves: Passeriformes: Icterus spp.). Temperature and precipitation tolerances were generally broad and conserved among orioles, with niche reduction and specialization limited to a few terminal branches. Tools for performing these reconstructions are available in a new R package called nichevol.

Peer review status:ACCEPTED

20 Jan 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
21 Jan 2020Submission Checks Completed
21 Jan 2020Assigned to Editor
27 Jan 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
04 Feb 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
06 Apr 20201st Revision Received
08 Apr 2020Submission Checks Completed
08 Apr 2020Assigned to Editor
08 Apr 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
22 Apr 2020Editorial Decision: Accept