Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Exploring the Australian Reptile Hypervolume: Assembly and evolution of a continental fauna

Project description

Studying the evolution of Australian reptiles

All forms of life on Earth exist in their own unique niches, allowing species to coexist and biodiversity to accumulate. While high-dimensional trait data exist for birds and mammals, reptiles are poorly represented. The EU-funded EARtH project will fill this knowledge gap by creating a niche database for all Australian lizard and snake species. The research fellow will investigate properties across time and the diverging evolution of Australian reptiles to test for the influence of biotic interactions on niche evolution. This novel approach will provide insights into the community assembly process which has made Australia the world's richest reptile hot spot. By comparing trends across the Australian landscape, the project will also test for links between occupancy, phylogenetic turnover and climate.

Objective

All forms of Life on Earth exist in their own unique niches defined by their appearance, behaviour, and preferred environment. These niches allow species to coexist and for biodiversity to accumulate at local, regional, and continental scales. By quantifying these niches in many dimensions we can build a hypervolume that describes diversity through variation in niche axes. While high dimensional trait data of this kind exist for birds and mammals, reptiles—which account for 30% of terrestrial vertebrate species—are poorly represented in these data and empirical studies of niche evolution. In EARtH I aim to fill this knowledge gap by building a high dimensional niche database for all Australian lizard and snake species (15 morphological measurements, 10 environmental variables, >1,000 species, ~10% of global reptile richness). Both biotic (character displacement through competition) and abiotic (habitat filtering) influences are expected to have predictable effects on niche evolution. By investigating hypervolume properties through time and across Australian reptile radiations I will test for the influence of biotic interactions on niche evolution. This novel approach will provide insight into the community assembly process which has made Australia the world’s richest reptile hotspot. By comparing trends across the Australian landscape I will also test for associations between hypervolume occupancy, phylogenetic turnover, and climate. Undertaking this fellowship will help me to develop comparative methods, museum curatorial, and reproducibility skills that complement my background in phylogenetics and macroevolution, making me a stronger and more independent researcher. In return, I look forward to sharing my skills and findings with the staff and visitors of the Natural History Museum in London and beyond.

æ

Coordinator

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
Net EU contribution
€ 224 933,76
Address
Cromwell road
SW7 5BD London
United Kingdom

See on map

Region
London Inner London — West Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham
Activity type
Public bodies (excluding Research Organisations and Secondary or Higher Education Establishments)
Links
Other funding
€ 0,00