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Short-term paleogeographic reorganizations and climate events shaped diversification of North American freshwater gastropods over deep time


What controls species diversity and diversification is one of the major questions in evolutionary biology and paleontology. Previous studies have addressed this issue based on various plant and animal groups, geographic regions, and time intervals. However, as most previous research focused on terrestrial or marine ecosystems, our understanding of the controls on diversification of biota (and particularly invertebrates) in freshwater environments in deep time is still limited. Here, we infer diversification rates of North American freshwater gastropods from the Late Triassic to the Pleistocene and explore potential links between shifts in speciation and extinction and major changes in paleogeography, climate, and biotic interactions. We found that variation in the speciation rate is best explained by changes in continental fragmentation, with rate shifts coinciding with major paleogeographic reorganizations in the Mesozoic, in particular the retreat of the Sundance Sea and subsequent development of the Bighorn wetland and the advance of the Western Interior Seaway. Climatic events in the Cenozoic (Middle Eocene Climate Optimum, Miocene Climate Optimum) variably coincide with shifts in speciation and extinction as well, but no significant long-term association could be detected. Similarly, no influence of diversity dependence was found across the entire time frame of ~ 214 Myr. Our results indicate that short-term climatic events and paleogeographic changes are relevant to the diversification of continental freshwater biota, while long-term trends have limited effect.

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