The role of behavioural flexibility in primate diversification

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Authors: Creighton, MJA; Greenberg, DA; Reader, SM; Mooers, AO
Year: 2021
Journal: Anim. Behav. 180: 269-290   Article Link (DOI)
Title: The role of behavioural flexibility in primate diversification
Abstract: Identifying the factors that influence species diversification is fundamental to our understanding of the evolutionary processes underlying extant biodiversity. Behavioural innovation, coupled with the social transmission of new behaviours, has been proposed to increase rates of evolutionary diversification, as novel behaviours expose populations to new selective regimes. Thus, it is believed that behavioural flexibility may be important in driving evolutionary diversification across animals. We test this hypothesis within the primates, a taxonomic group with considerable among-lineage variation in both species diversity and behavioural flexibility. We employ a time cutoff in our phylogeny to help account for biases associated with recent taxonomic reclassifications and compare three alternative measures of diversification rate that consider different phylogenetic depths. We find that the presence of behavioural innovation and social learning are positively correlated with diversification rates among primate genera, but not at shallower phylogenetic depths. Given that we find stronger associations when examining older rather than more recent diversification events, we suggest that extinction resistance, as opposed to speciation, may be an important mechanism linking behavioural flexibility and primate diversification. Our results contrast with work linking behavioural flexibility with diversification of birds at various phylogenetic depths. We offer a possible dispersal-mediated explanation for these conflicting patterns, such that the influence behavioural flexibility plays in dictating evolutionary trajectories differs across clades. Our results suggest that behavioural flexibility may act through several different pathways to shape the evolutionary trajectories of lineages. (c) 2021 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.
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