Including Fossils in Phylogenetic Climate Reconstructions: A Deep Time Perspective on the Climatic Niche Evolution and Diversification of Spiny Lizards (Sceloporus). Academic Article uri icon


  • Fossils and other paleontological information can improve phylogenetic comparative method estimates of phenotypic evolution and generate hypotheses related to species diversification. Here, we use fossil information to calibrate ancestral reconstructions of suitable climate for Sceloporus lizards in North America. Integrating data from the fossil record, general circulation models of paleoclimate during the Miocene, climate envelope modeling, and phylogenetic comparative methods provides a geographically and temporally explicit species distribution model of Sceloporus-suitable habitat through time. We provide evidence to support the historic biogeographic hypothesis of Sceloporus diversification in warm North American deserts and suggest a relatively recent Sceloporus invasion into Mexico around 6 Ma. We use a physiological model to map extinction risk. We suggest that the number of hours of restriction to a thermal refuge limited Sceloporus from inhabiting Mexico until the climate cooled enough to provide suitable habitat at approximately 6 Ma. If the future climate returns to the hotter climates of the past, Mexico, the place of highest modern Sceloporus richness, will no longer provide suitable habitats for Sceloporus to survive and reproduce.

published proceedings

  • Am Nat

altmetric score

  • 11.35

author list (cited authors)

  • Lawing, A. M., Polly, P. D., Hews, D. K., & Martins, E. P.

citation count

  • 19

complete list of authors

  • Lawing, A Michelle||Polly, P David||Hews, Diana K||Martins, Emília P

publication date

  • August 2016