Departures from the energy-biodiversity relationship in south african passerines: are the legacies of past climates mediated by behavioral constraints on dispersal?

Journal Article


Journal Title

PLoS One

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Public Library of Science


University of Cape Town

Legacies of paleoclimates in contemporary biodiversity patterns have mostly been investigated with global datasets, or with weakly dispersive organisms, and as a consequence been interpreted in terms of geographical or physical constraints. If paleoclimatic legacies also occurred at the regional scale in the distributions of vagile organisms within biomes, they would rather suggest behavioral constraints on dispersal, i.e., philopatric syndromes. We examined 1) the residuals of the regression between contemporary energy and passerine species richness in South African biomes and 2) phylogenetic dispersion of passerine assemblages, using occupancy models and quarter-degree resolution citizen science data. We found a northeast to southwest gradient within mesic biomes congruent with the location of Quaternary mesic refugia, overall suggesting that as distance from refugia increased, more clades were lacking from local assemblages. A similar but weaker pattern was detected in the arid Karoo Biomes. In mobile organisms such as birds, behavioral constraints on dispersal appear strong enough to influence species distributions thousands of years after historical range contractions.