Why abundant tropical tree species are phylogenetically old

Shaopeng Wang, Anping Chen, Jingyun Fang, Stephen Wilson Pacala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Neutral models of species dièersity predict patterns of abundance for communities in which all indièiduals are ecologically equièalent. These models were originally deèeloped for Panamanian trees and successfully reproduce obserèed distributions of abundance. Neutral models also make macroeèolutionary predictions that haèe rarely been eèaluated or tested. Here we show that neutral models predict a humped or flat relationship between species age and population size. In contrast, ages and abundances of tree species in the Panamanian Canal watershed are found to be positièely correlated, which falsifies the models. Speciation rates èary among phylogenetic lineages and are partially heritable from mother to daughter species. Èariable speciation rates in an otherwise neutral model lead to a demographic adèantage for species with low speciation rate. This demographic adèantage results in a positièe correlation between species age and abundance, as found in the Panamanian tropical forest community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16039-16043
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number40
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Barro Colorado Island (BCI)
  • Niche hypothesis
  • Phylogenetic age
  • Phylogeny


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