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Australian National University (2020)

Evolution of reptile diversity in tropical savannas - a study across scales and continents

Fenker Antunes, Jessica

Titre : Evolution of reptile diversity in tropical savannas - a study across scales and continents

Auteur : Fenker Antunes, Jessica

Université de soutenance : Australian National University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2020

Description partielle
What promotes biological diversity ? Accurately recognising and describing patterns of diversity is fundamental to understanding the evolutionary and ecological processes underpinning diversification. The history of living organisms is expressed at multiple dimensions, ranging from speciation processes across various biogeographical scales, to variation in morphology, ecology and genetic diversity. Systems with highly heterogeneous habitats provide good models to investigate how landscape processes affect the observed patterns of ecological and genetic diversity, e.g. through speciation and local adaptation. Tropical savannas are environmentally heterogeneous biomes, covering one sixth of the Earth’s terrestrial surface, in which a high number of species coexist, with high levels of endemism. My thesis compares pattern and process of savanna reptile diversity across two biogeographic realms - the Cerrado biome from South America and the Australian Monsoonal Tropics (AMT) of Australia. I investigate the principal factors that shape the adaptation and diversification of lizards (and sometimes snakes and amphisbaenians). This entails studies within in each of the Cerrado and AMT systems at landscape to regional scales. Comparing these two analogous but evolutionarily independent systems, I expect to identify common processes underpinning the high diversity of tropical savanna systems. A better understanding of the diversification process has three broad outcomes. First, the use of an integrative approach, including molecular, ecological and morphological datasets, provides a more complete view of the patterns of diversity that we see today. Second, the use of refined population-level and phylogeographic datasets improves our definition of species limits and overcome taxonomic shortfalls that preclude large-scale inferences. Third, the mapping of the distribution of this diversity, and a better understanding of the evolutionary processes involved, is essential to assess conservation priorities give rapid global change.


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