Trait-dependent diversification in angiosperms: Patterns, models and data

Andrew J. Helmstetter, Rosana Zenil-Ferguson, Hervé Sauquet, Sarah P. Otto, Marcos Méndez, Mario Vallejo-Marin, Jürg Schönenberger, Concetta Burgarella, Bruce Anderson, Hugo de Boer, Sylvain Glémin, Jos Käfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Variation in species richness across the tree of life, accompanied by the incredible variety of ecological and morphological characteristics found in nature, has inspired many studies to link traits with species diversification. Angiosperms are a highly diverse group that has fundamentally shaped life on earth since the Cretaceous, and illustrate how species diversification affects ecosystem functioning. Numerous traits and processes have been linked to differences in species richness within this group, but we know little about their relative importance and how they interact. Here, we synthesised data from 152 studies that used state-dependent speciation and extinction (SSE) models on angiosperm clades. Intrinsic traits related to reproduction and morphology were often linked to diversification but a set of universal drivers did not emerge as traits did not have consistent effects across clades. Importantly, SSE model results were correlated to data set properties – trees that were larger, older or less well-sampled tended to yield trait-dependent outcomes. We compared these properties to recommendations for SSE model use and provide a set of best practices to follow when designing studies and reporting results. Finally, we argue that SSE model inferences should be considered in a larger context incorporating species' ecology, demography and genetics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-657
Number of pages18
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is supported by the Fondation pour la recherche sur la biodiversité (FRB) through the CESAB project ‘DiveRS’. We thank the members of the ‘DiveRS’ group for the ideas and discussions that led to this manuscript. We thank Nicolas Casajus and Aurore Receveur for advice on data analyses.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • BiSSE
  • extinction
  • flowering plants
  • macroevolution
  • phylogenetics
  • speciation
  • trait evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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