Center for Tropical Research, UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability

Rainforest Biodiversity and Speciation


Africa (Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast), Australia, South America (Ecuador)

These projects seek to understand the mechanisms important in generating rainforest biodiversity. Results from research on birds in Cameroon and reptiles in Australia strongly suggest that these transition zones, known as ecotones, are an important generator of the biodiversity of the rainforest. These findings have important implications for conservation policies, which to date have focused on the preservation of the rainforest exclusively, effectively seeking to preserve the pattern of biodiversity but not the process that creates it. By taking a multifaceted approach to the study of evolution, we can understand how diverging populations become new species, and take steps to conserve and protect those areas of the tropics that support such evolutionary processes.

With its collaborators, CTR has secured funding to expand this research to include birds, reptiles, small mammals and bats, in-and-around the rainforests of Africa, South America, and Australia. Finally, CTR is working with Senior Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Lab to utilize NASA satellite imagery to assess the degree of ecotone loss worldwide.

Related Publications

In Press Milá, Borja. Speciation on oceanic islands: rapid adaptive divergence vs. cryptic speciation in a Guadalupe Island songbird (Aves: Junco). PLoS ONE.
2013 Duraes R., Carrasco L., Smith T.B., Karubian J. Effects of forest disturbance and habitat loss on avian communities in a Neotropical biodiversity hotspot. Biological Conservation, 166:203-211. PDF
2013 Fuller, T.L., Thomassen H.A., Peralvo M., Buermann W., Mila B., Kieswetter C. M., Jarrin V.P., Cameron Devitt S.E., Mason E., Schweizer R.M., Schlinegger J., Chan J., Wang O., Schneider C.J., Pollinger P.J., Saatchi S., Graham C.H., Wayne R.K., Smith T.B. Intraspecific morphological and genetic variation of common species predicts ranges of threatened ones. Proceeds of the Royal Society Biological Sciences, 280, 20130423 PDF
2013 Smith, T.B., R. Harrigan, A. Kirsche, W. Buermann, S. Saatchi, D. Blumstein, S. de Kort, H. Slabbekoorn. Predicting birdsong from space. Evolutionary Applications. DOI: 10.1111/eva.12072. PDF
2013 Thomassen, H.A., T. Fuller, S. Asefi-Najafabady, J.A.G. Shiplacoff, P.M. Mulembakani, S.C. Johnston, N.K. Kisalu, T.K. Lutete, S. Blumberg, J.N. Fair, N.D. Wolfe, R.K. Shongo, M. LeBreton, H. Meyer, L.L. Wright, J. Muyembe, W. Buermann, E. Okitolonda, L.E. Hensley, J.O. Lloyd-Smight, T.B. Smith, A.W. Rimoin. Pathogen-host associations and predicted range shifts of human monkeypox in response to climate change in Central Africa. PLoS ONE 8(7): e66071. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066071 PDF
2012 Laurance, W. F., …T. B. Smith et al. Averting biodiversity collapse in tropical protected areas. Nature. doi:10.1038/nature11318. PDF
2012 Mila, B., E.S. Tavares, A.M. Saldana, J. Karubian, T.B. Smith, A.J. Baker. A trans-Amazonian screening of mtDNA reveals deep intraspecific divergence in forest birds and suggests a vast underestimation of species diversity. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40541. PDF
2011 Chaves, J.A. and T. B. Smith. Evolutionary patterns of diversification in the Andean hummingbird genus Adelomyia. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 60: 207-218. PDF
2011 Thomassen, H. A., T. Fuller, W. Buermann, B. Milá, C. M. Kieswetter, P. Jarrín-V., S. E. Cameron, E. Mason, R. Schweizer, J. Schlunegger, J. Chan, O. Wang, M. Peralvo, C. J. Schneider, C. H. Graham, J. P. Pollinger, S. Saatchi, R. K. Wayne, and T. B. Smith. Mapping evolutionary process: a multi-taxa approach to conservation prioritization. Evolutionary Applications 4: 397-413. PDF
2010 Freedman, A. H., H. A. Thomassen, W. Buermann, and T. B. Smith. Genomic signals of diversification along ecological gradients in a tropical lizard. Molecular Ecology 19: 3773-3788. PDF
2010 Thomassen, H. A., K. C. Jones, J. P. Pollinger, and T. B. Smith. Characterization of novel microsatellite loci for Myzomela cardinalis and M. rubrata honeyeaters, and cross-amplification in other species. Conservation Genetics Resources 2: 205-208. PDF
2010 Freedman, A. H., Buermann, W, Mitchard, E. T. A., DeFries, R. S., and T. B. Smith. Human impacts flatten rainforest savanna gradient and reduce adaptive diversity in a rainforest bird. PLoS ONE 5: e13088. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013088. PDF
2010 Thomassen, H. A., W. Buermann, B. Milá, C. H. Graham, S. E. Cameron, C.  J. Schneider, J. P. Pollinger, S. Saatchi, R. K. Wayne, and T. B.  Smith. Modeling environmentally associated morphological and genetic variation in a rainforest bird, and its application to conservation prioritization. Evolutionary Applications 3:  1-16. PDF
2009 Milá, B., R. K. Wayne, P. Fitze,  and T. B. Smith. Divergence with gene flow and fine-scale phylogeographic structure in the wedge-billed woodcreeper Glyphorynchus spirurus, a Neotropical rainforest bird. Molecular Ecology 18: 2979-2995. PDF
2009 Kirschel, A. N. G., D. T. Blumstein, and T. B. Smith.  Character displacement of song and morphology in African tinkerbirds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106: 8256-8261. PDF
2008 Smith, T. B., and G. Grether. The importance of conserving evolutionary process. Pages 85-98. In S. P. Carroll and C. Fox (Eds.). Conservation Biology: Evolution in Action. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
2007 Chaves, J. A., J. Pollinger, T. B. Smith, and G. Lebuhn. The role of geography and ecology in shaping the phylogeography of the speckled hummingbird (Adelomyia melanogenys) in Ecuador. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 43: 795-807. PDF
2007 Karubian, J., L. Carrasco, D. Cabrera, A. Cook, and J. Olivo. Nesting biology of the banded ground-cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus). The Wilson Journal of ornithology 119: 222-228. PDF
2006 Dingle, C., I.J. Lovette, C. Canaday, and T.B. Smith. Elevational zonation and the phylogenetic relationships of the Henicorhina wood-wrens. The Auk 123: 119-134. PDF
2005 Smith, T. B., S. Saatchi, C. Graham, H. Slabbekoorn, and G. Spicer. Putting process on the map: Why ecotones are important for preserving biodiversity. Pages 166-197. In A. Purvis, J. Gittleman, and T. Brooks (Eds.). Phylogeny and Conservation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. PDF
2005 Graham, C. H., T. B. Smith, and M. Languy. Current and historical factors influencing patterns of species richness and turnover of birds in the Gulf of Guinea highlands. Journal of Biogeography 32: 1371-1384. PDF
2005 Smith, T. B., R. Calsbeek, R.K. Wayne, K.H. Holder, D. Pires, and C. Bardeleben. Testing alternative mechanisms of evolutionary divergence in an African rainforest passerine bird. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 18: 257-268. PDF
2005 Smith, T. B., R. K. Wayne, D. Girman, and M. W. Bruford. Evaluating the divergence-with-gene-flow model in natural population: the importance of ecotones in rainforest speciation. Pages 148-165. In E. Bermingham, C. Dick, and C. Moritz (Eds.). Tropical Rainforests: Past, Present, and Future. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. PDF
2005 Mila, Borja and Carolyne Bardeleben. Isolation of polymorphic tetranucleotide microsatellite markers for the wedge-billed woodcreeper Glyphorynchus spirurus. Molecular Ecology Notes 5, 844-845. PDF
2005 Bardeleben, Carolyne and Melissa M. Gray. Isolation of polymorphic tetranucleotide microsatellite markers for the streak-necked flycatcher Mionectes striaticollis. Molecular Ecology Notes 5, 755-756. PDF
2005 Bardeleben, Carolyne and Melissa M. Gray. Isolation of polymorphic tetranucleotide microsatellite markers for the masked flowerpiercer Diglossa cyanea. Molecular Ecology Notes 5, 849-850. PDF
2002 Slabbekoorn, H and T. B. Smith. Habitat-dependent song divergence in the little greenbul: an analysis of environmental selection pressures on acoustic signals. Evolution 56: 1849-1858. PDF
2002 Slabbekoorn, H., J. Ellers and T. B. Smith. Birdsong and sound transmission: The benefits of reverberations. Condor 104: 564-573. PDF
2002 Slabbekoorn, H and T. B. Smith. Bird song, ecology and speciation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London 23: 1-11. PDF
2001 Smith, T. B., C. J. Schneider and K. Holder. Refugial isolation vs. ecological gradients: Testing alternative mechanisms of evolutionary divergence in four rainforest vertebrates. Genetica 112: 383-398. PDF
2001 Smith, T.B., S. Kark, C.J. Schneider, R.K. Wayne and C. Moritz. [commentary] Biodiversity hotspots and beyond: the need for preserving environmental transitions. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 16: 431 PDF
2001 VanGelder, E., and T.B. Smith. Breeding Characteristics of the Akohekohe on east Maui. In Conservation Ecology and Management of Hawaii's Avifauna. M. Scott, S. Conant, C. Van Riper, (Eds.). Studies in Avian Biology No. 22. Pages 194-201.
2000 Larison, B., T. B. Smith, R. Fotso, D. McNiven. Comparative avian biodiversity of five mountains in northern Cameroon and Bioko. Ostrich 71: 269-276.
2000 Moritz, C., J. Patton, C. Schneider, and T. Smith. Diversification of rainforest faunas: An integrated molecular approach. Annual Reviews of Ecology and Sytematics 31: 533-563. PDF
1999 Schneider, C., T. B. Smith, B. Larison, and C. Moritz. 1999. A test of alternative models of diversification in tropical rainforest: ecological gradients vs. rainforest refugia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 96: 13869-13873. PDF
1998 Orr, M. R. and T. B. Smith. Ecology and speciation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 13: 502-506. PDF
1997 Smith, T.B., R. K. Wayne, D. Girman and M. W. Bruford. A Role for Ecotones in Generating Rainforest Biodiversity. Science 276: 1855-1857. PDF
1996 Mace, G., T. B. Smith, M. W. Bruford, and R. K. Wayne. 1996. An Overview of the Issues. Pages: 1-21. In Smith, T. B. and R. K. Wayne (Eds.). Molecular Genetic Approaches in Conservation. Oxford University Press.
1996 Smith, T. B. and R. K. Wayne (Eds.). Molecular Genetic Approaches in Conservation. Oxford University Press. 483 pp.
1993 Smith, T. B., M. W. Bruford, and R. K. Wayne. The preservation of process: the missing element of conservation programs. Biodiversity Letters 1: 164-167. PDF

Center for Tropical Research | UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
La Kretz Hall, Suite 300 | 619 Charles E. Young Dr. East | Los Angeles, CA 90095-1496

The Center for Tropical Research, located on the third floor of La Kretz Hall, is part of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles. For general inquiries, contact Christa Gomez, CTR Office Manager, at 310-206-6234, or by email at Visitors are always welcome.

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