Phylogeography and the evolution of correlated traits under multiple origins of aposematism in the poison frog family

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Santos, Juan Carlos

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Living organisms are under selection not only for one, but also for several inheritable characters at the same time. Well-sampled and well-supported phylogenies are necessary for the studies of character evolution and their history. The poison frogs (Dendrobatidae) are a well-known example of aposematism in anurans. They include ~270 species of Neotropical frogs with aposematic (toxic and conspicuous) and non-defended (palatable and cryptic) species. The origin of aposematism in poison frogs is puzzling, because of its predicted low probability of establishment due to the prey's increased conspicuousness. Previous studies suggested a single origin of toxicity and warning coloration. By expanding taxon sampling of the group, I reexamined the phylogenetic correlation between the origins of toxicity and warning coloration. I found four or five independent origins of aposematism; by using simulations, I rejected hypotheses of one, two, or three origins of aposematism (P < 0.002). I also found that diet specialization is linked with the evolution of aposematism and has evolved independently at least two times. Poison frogs are endemic to the Neotropic, which is one of the Earth's largest reservoir of biodiversity. I reconstructed the biogeography of the poison frog clade and rejected an Amazonian center-of-origin in favor of a model expanding over the Neotropics. I inferred 14 dispersals into and 18 out of Amazonia to adjacent regions; the Andes were the major source of dispersals into Amazonia. Significant percentage of dendrobatid diversity in Amazonia and Chocó resulted from repeated immigrations, with radiations at <10.0 million years ago. In contrast, the Andes, Venezuelan Highlands, and Guiana Shield have undergone extended in situ diversification at near constant rate since the Oligocene. Poison frogs have significant variation on their physiological characteristics. I measured resting and active metabolic rates of 54 species. I traced metabolic measurements along aposematism, diet specialization, molecular rates, and body mass. I found a synergistic and co-adapted functionality of active metabolic rates with all previous traits that is perhaps the consequence of the increase in complexity in most biological systems. My thesis has expanded the knowledge of the biology, phylogenetic history, and biogeography of the poison frogs.



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