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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Disparity in the timing of vertebrate diversification events between the northern and southern hemispheres

Reid Tingley1 and Sylvain Dubey2*

Author affiliations

1 School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, 3010, Australia

2 Department of Ecology and Evolution, Biophore Bld, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, 1015, Switzerland

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2012, 12:244  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-244

Published: 15 December 2012



Climatic oscillations throughout the Quaternary had profound effects on temperate biodiversity, but the extent of Quaternary climate change was more severe in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere than in the southern hemisphere. We sought to determine whether this geographic disparity differentially influenced the timing of intraspecific diversification events within ectothermic and endothermic vertebrate species. Using published phylogenetic hypotheses, we gathered data on the oldest intraspecific diversification event within mammal, bird, freshwater fish, amphibian, and reptile species from temperate-zone areas. We then tested whether the timing of diversification events differed between hemispheres.


Our analyses provide strong evidence that vertebrates from temperate regions of the northern hemisphere are younger than those from the southern hemisphere. However, we find little evidence to suggest that this relationship differs between endotherms versus ectotherms, or that it varies widely across the five classes of vertebrates that we considered. In addition, we find that on average, endothermic species are much younger than ectothermic species.


Our findings suggest that geographic variation in the magnitude of climatic oscillations during the Quaternary led to substantial disparity in the timing of intraspecific diversification events between northern and southern hemisphere vertebrates, and that the magnitude of this divergence is largely congruent across vertebrate taxa.

Climate change; Dispersal; Ectotherm; Endotherm; Genetic diversity; Glaciation; Intraspecific diversification; Quaternary