The geography and ecology of plant speciation: range overlap and niche divergence in sister species.
A goal of evolutionary biology is to understand the roles of geography and ecology in speciation. The recent shared ancestry of sister species can leave a major imprint on their geographical and ecological attributes, possibly revealing processes involved in speciation. We examined how ecological similarity, range overlap and range asymmetry are related to time since divergence of 71 sister species pairs in the California Floristic Province (CFP). We found that plants exhibit strikingly different age-range correlation patterns from those found for animals; the latter broadly support allopatric speciation as the primary mode of speciation. By contrast, plant sisters in the CFP were sympatric in 80% of cases and range sizes of sisters differed by a mean of 10-fold. Range overlap and range asymmetry were greatest in younger sisters. These results suggest that speciation mechanisms broadly grouped under 'budding' speciation, in which a larger ranged progenitor gives rise to a smaller ranged derivative species, are probably common. The ecological and reproductive similarity of sisters was significantly greater than that of sister-non-sister congeners for every trait assessed. However, shifts in at least one trait were present in 93% of the sister pairs; habitat and soil shifts were especially common. Ecological divergence did not increase with range overlap contrary to expectations under character displacement in sympatry. Our results suggest that vicariant speciation is more ubiquitous in animals than plants, perhaps owing to the sensitivity of plants to fine-scale environmental heterogeneity. Despite high levels of range overlap, ecological shifts in the process of budding speciation may result in low rates of fine-scale spatial co-occurrence. These results have implications for ecological studies of trait evolution and community assembly; despite high levels of sympatry, sister taxa and potentially other close relatives, may be missing from local communities.