Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Connecting microevolutionary processes with macroevolutionary patterns across space and time Public Deposited

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  • Whether microevolutionary processes can explain macroevolutionary patterns has long been a matter of contentious debate. The debate has persisted largely because of the challenging task of connecting microevolutionary theory, which examines population-level phenomena on the generation scale, to data collected across larger spatial and temporal scales. My dissertation research broadly examines phenotypic evolution across multiple scales by connecting microevolutionary theory to macroevolutionary phenomena such as speciation and large-scale phenotypic change. In particular, I focus on the so-called paradox of stasis; which wrestles with the apparent conflict between frequently-observed cases of rapid evolution on short timescales and the frequent appearance of stasis in the fossil record. I attempt to link micro and macroevolution by using the theoretical framework of evolutionary quantitative genetics for modeling the effects of drift and selection. My four dissertation chapters examine four different systems (1) connecting quantitative genetic models of sexual selection to speciation (2) connecting microevolutionary and macroevolutionary body size data across scales of time (3) using phylogenetic comparative methods and quantitative genetic models to examine the evolution of a classic example of stasis, mammalian body temperature and (4) finally, using multi-locus phylogeography to understand the evolutionary processes that contribute to the diversification of a widespread snake across broad spatial scales. In chapter 2, I demonstrate that genetic drift combined with sexual selection can promotes speciation and diversification of male ornaments. Furthermore, I demonstrate that drift promotes the evolution of elaborate ornaments even when preferences are costly. In chapter 3, I combine data from microevolutionary field studies, the fossil record, and phylogenetic comparative data into a single analytical framework to resolve apparent conflicts between micro and macroevolutionary patterns. To do so, I compiled and analyzed the largest database of phenotypic divergence data in existence. I demonstrate that patterns of stasis persist until a million-year threshold, after which divergence begins to accumulate in a time-dependent manner. This pattern is best fit with a hierarchical model that describes evolution as occurring in bursts on the million-year timescale, but that allows for rapid, but bounded, evolution on short timescales. In chapter 4, I demonstrate that mammalian body temperature -- which has been previously presented as a classic example of stasis -- does in fact evolve extensively across the mammalian radiation (albeit slowly). Furthermore, I show that mammalian body temperature evolves in response to changing environmental conditions. Finally, I evaluate the role that genetic constraints play in the apparent slowness of body temperature evolution. In chapter 5, I examine a well-studied empirical system of garter snakes in which a strong signature of stabilizing selection has been found for phenotypic traits. Using multiple mitochondrial and nuclear loci, I show that introgression is rampant between species, and dynamic patterns of range expansion, contraction, and introgression among clades have led to a complex pattern of genetic variation. This structure of genetic variation underscores the need to examine range-wide processes for generating phenotypic divergence across clades. Overall, these chapters suggest that apparent disconnects between microevolutionary processes and macroevolutionary patterns could be explained by the scaling of population-level theory over large spatial and temporal scales.
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