Variations in the origination and extinction rates of species over geological time often are linked with a range of factors, including the evolution of key innovations, changes in ecosystem structure, and environmental factors such as shifts in climate and physical geography. Before hypothesizing causality of a single factor, it is critical to demonstrate that the observed variation in diversification is significantly greater than one would expect due to natural stochasticity in the evolutionary branching process. Here, we use a likelihood-ratio test to compare taxonomic rate heterogeneity to a neutral birth-death model, using data on well-supported sister pairs of taxa and their species richness. We test the likelihood that the distribution of extant species among angiosperm genera and families could be the result of constant diversification rates. Results strongly support the conclusion that there is significantly more heterogeneity in diversity at the species level within angiosperms than would be expected due to stochastic processes. This result is consistent in datasets of genus pairs and family pairs and is not affected significantly by degrading pairs to simulate inaccuracy in the assumption of simultaneous origin of sister taxa. When we parse taxon pairs among higher groups of angiosperms, results indicate that a constant rates model is not rejected by rosid and basal eudicot pairs but is rejected by asterid and eumagnoliid pairs. These results provide strong support for the hypothesis that species-level rates of origination and/or extinction have varied nonrandomly within angiosperms and that the magnitude of heterogeneity varies among major groups within angiosperms.
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Vol. 57 • No. 3