We developed an approach that combines distribution data, environmental geographic information system layers, environmental niche models, and phylogenetic information to investigate speciation processes. We used Ecuadorian frogs of the family Dendrobatidae to illustrate our methodology. For dendrobatids there are several cases for which there is significant environmental divergence for allopatric and parapatric lineages. The consistent pattern that many related taxa or nodes exist in distinct environmental space reinforces Lynch and Duellman's hypothesis that differential selection likely played an important role in species differentiation of frogs in the Andes. There is also some evidence that the Río Esmeraldas basin is a geographic barrier to species distributed in low to middle elevations on the western side of the Andes. Another useful aspect of this approach is that it can point to common environmental parameters that correlate with speciation. For dendrobatids, sister clades generally segregate along temperature/elevational and/or seasonality axes. The joint analysis of environmental and geographic data for this group of dendrobatid frogs has identified potentially important speciation mechanisms and specific sister lineages that warrant intensive study to test hypotheses generated in this investigation. Further, the method outlined in this paper will be increasingly useful as knowledge of distribution and phylogeny of tropical species increases.
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