Organisms Diversity & Evolution

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 1–10 | Cite as

Integrating selection, niche, and diversification into a hierarchical conceptual framework

  • Davi Mello Cunha Crescente Alves
  • José Alexandre Felizola Diniz-Filho
  • Fabricio Villalobos
Forum Paper


Recently, new phylogenetic comparative methods have been proposed to test for the association of biological traits with diversification patterns, with species ecological “niche” being one of the most studied traits. In general, these methods implicitly assume natural selection acting at the species level, thus implying the mechanism of species selection. However, natural selection acting at the organismal level could also influence diversification patterns (i.e., effect macroevolution). Owing to our scarce knowledge on multi-level selection regarding niche as a trait, we propose a conceptual model to discuss and guide the test between species selection and effect macroevolution within a hierarchical framework. We first assume niche as an organismal as well as a species’ trait that interacts with the environment and results in species-level differential fitness. Then, we argue that niche heritability, a requirement for natural selection, can be assessed by its phylogenetic signal. Finally, we propose several predictions that can be tested in the future by disentangling both types of evolutionary processes (species selection or effect macroevolution). Our framework can have important implications for guiding analyses that aim to understand the hierarchical perspective of evolution.


Individual-based models Niche conservatism Macroevolution Phylogenetic comparative methods Species selection Trait 



We are indebted to Thiago F. Rangel and Tiago B. Quental for thorough discussions and suggestions. We thank Michael Schmitt for grateful suggestions in the manuscript. FV thanks Mark E. Olson for introducing him to macroevolutionary theory and for endless discussions on theory and science. DMCCA was supported by a “Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior” (CAPES) doctoral fellowship. FV was supported by a “Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico” (CNPq) Science without Borders grant (BJT 301540/2014-4). JAFDF is continuously supported by a “Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico” (CNPq) productivity fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Davi Mello Cunha Crescente Alves
    • 1
    • 2
  • José Alexandre Felizola Diniz-Filho
    • 1
  • Fabricio Villalobos
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratório de Ecologia Teórica e Síntese, Programa de Ecologia e EvoluçãoUniversidade Federal de GoiásGoiâniaBrazil
  2. 2.Depto de Ecologia, ICBUniversidade Federal de GoiásGoiâniaBrazil
  3. 3.Laboratório de Ecologia Teórica e Síntese, Departamento de Ecologia, Universidade Federal de Goiás, Brasil. Red de Biología EvolutivaInstituto de Ecología, A.C.XalapaMexico

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