Evolutionary Biology

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 268–286 | Cite as

Ecological and Ecomorphological Specialization Are Not Associated with Diversification Rates in Muroid Rodents (Rodentia: Muroidea)

  • Bader H. Alhajeri
  • Scott J. Steppan
Research Article


Multiple diversification rate shifts explain uneven clade richness in muroid rodents. Previous muroid studies have shown that extrinsic factors, notwithstanding ecological opportunity, are poor predictors of clade diversity. Here, we use a 297-muroid species chronogram that is sampled proportional to total clade diversity, along with various trait-dependent diversification approaches to investigate the association between diversification rates with intrinsic attributes—diet, habitat, body mass, and relative tail length. We found some association between both dietary specialization and body mass, as well as between habitat specialization with relative tail lengths using phylogenetic analyses of variance. However, there was no significant association between diversification rates with the evolution of these traits in muroid rodents. We also show that several of the state-dependent diversification approaches are highly susceptible to Type I error—a result that is in accordance with recent criticisms of these methods. Finally, we discuss several potential causes for the lack of association between the examined trait data with diversification rates, ranging from methodological biases (e.g. method conservativism) to biology (e.g. behavioral plasticity and ecological opportunism of muroid rodents).


Body size Generalization Hidden-state speciation and extinction Multistate characters Quantitative traits Trait-dependent diversification 



Earlier versions of the manuscript benefited from comments by Gregory Erickson, Joseph Travis, Thomas Miller, William Parker, and especially John Schenk. We also appreciate correspondence with Daniel Rabosky concerning the general issues with state-dependent diversification methods. An anonymous reviewer contributed useful comments that improved the final version of the manuscript. Financial support for this work was provided by a fellowship from Kuwait University to BHA.


This project was partially funded by NSF Grant DEB-0841447 to SJS.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest regarding the publication of this article.

Supplementary material

11692_2018_9449_MOESM1_ESM.eps (4 mb)
Full version of Schenk et al. (2013) muroid rodent chronogram (showing the tip labels), with some of the major taxonomic groups indicated. (EPS 4078 KB)
11692_2018_9449_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (56 kb)
Diet and habitat data for muroid species used in the analyses. For diet, C = carnivore, O = omnivore, H = herbivore. For habitat, A = arboreal, F = fossorial, T = terrestrial. Diet description and references are also included. Missing data are designated with (−). See Materials and Methods for more information. (XLSX 55 KB)
11692_2018_9449_MOESM3_ESM.xlsx (24 kb)
Log-transformed adult body mass (log mass) and relative tail lengths (rtl) of muroid rodents used in the analyses. Mass is in grams and lengths are in millimeters. Data extracted from Alhajeri et al. (<link rid="bib5">2016</link>). See Material and methods for more information. (XLSX 23 KB)
11692_2018_9449_MOESM4_ESM.xlsx (17 kb)
Summary of alternative multistate-dependent speciation and extinction (MuSSE) model fits for the association between diet and diversification rates in muroid rodents. Both the results for the (a) empirical (observed) analysis, and the (b–k) ten tip-shuffled (randomized) analyses are shown. The best-fit model based on ∆AICc and Akaike weights (wi) are denoted in bold. n = number of estimated parameters; ln L = log-likelihood score; ∆AICc = fit relative to the model with the lowest AICc score (italicized). (XLSX 17 KB)
11692_2018_9449_MOESM5_ESM.xlsx (18 kb)
Summary of alternative multistate-dependent speciation and extinction (MuSSE) model fits for the association between habitat and diversification rates in muroid rodents. Both the results for the (a) empirical (observed) analysis, and the (b–k) ten tip-shuffled (randomized) analyses are shown. The best-fit model based on ∆AICc and Akaike weights (wi) are denoted in bold. n = number of estimated parameters; ln L = log-likelihood score; ∆AICc = fit relative to the model with the lowest AICc score (italicized). (XLSX 17 KB)
11692_2018_9449_MOESM6_ESM.xlsx (20 kb)
Summary of alternative quantitative state-dependent speciation and extinction (QuaSSE) model fits for the association between log body mass and diversification rates in muroid rodents. The extinction rate (µ) is set as constant (constrained) in all the models, and only the speciation (λ) rate is allowed to vary. Both the results for the (a) empirical (observed) analysis, and the (b–k) ten tip-shuffled (randomized) analyses, are shown. The best-fit model based on ∆AICc and Akaike weights (wi) are denoted in bold. n = number of estimated parameters; ln L = log-likelihood score; ∆AICc = fit relative to the model with the lowest AICc score (italicized). (XLSX 19 KB)
11692_2018_9449_MOESM7_ESM.xlsx (20 kb)
Summary of alternative quantitative state-dependent speciation and extinction (QuaSSE) model fits for the association between relative tail length and diversification rates in muroid rodents. The extinction rate (µ) is set as constant (constrained) in all the models, and only the speciation (λ) rate is allowed to vary. Both the results for the (a) empirical (observed) analysis, and the (b–k) ten tip-shuffled (randomized) analyses, are shown. The best-fit model based on ∆AICc and Akaike weights (wi) are denoted in bold. n = number of estimated parameters; ln L = log-likelihood score; ∆AICc = fit relative to the model with the lowest AICc score (italicized). (XLSX 19 KB)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesKuwait UniversitySafatKuwait
  2. 2.Department of Biological ScienceFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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