Distinct speciation regimes detected in vipers see Alencar et al. 2016
My research combines natural history, morphological, geographical and phylogenetic information with the application of statistical models to answer questions in large taxonomic, temporal and spatial contexts. Whenever possible I visit scientific collections to analyze specimens and sometimes I also use literature information. Click here to download my CV.
I am currently working on different projects detailed below:
1. What determines species coexistence among squamates?
In order to understand the assembly of biological communities and, in a greater extent, how biodiversity evolves, we need to understand what drives species coexistence. The order Squamata comprise more than 10.000 species showing an impressive ecological diversity and distribution in distinct habitats. Using life history, morphological and geographical information for several species, we are investigating why, where and when do squamates coexist. This project is part of my postdoc and is funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). Our project also received a visiting fellowship provided by the Australian Museum allowing us to visit their valuable collections.
2. Patterns and processes shaping diversification dynamics in reptiles
Reptiles have successfully colonized many habitats and microhabitats, eat different prey types and occur in almost every part of the world. They are a highly heterogeneous group exhibiting an impressive diversity not only in ecological aspects but also in the number of species comprising each lineage. My goal here is to investigate the patterns and processes shaping the radiation of reptiles. During my PhD I developed a project to understand the diversification dynamics of vipers and found that speciation rates changed dramatically in a sub-group of pitvipers (see Alencar et al. 2016). During these four years I also explored how different habitats change morphological and speciation dynamics in vipers. I am working now to disentangle the processes underlying the diversification in New World pitvipers across space and time helping to understand a bit more about the relevant diversity drivers in continental radiations. While exploring the continental explosive radiation of New World pitvipers, we noted that we still need a theoretical framework unifying micro and macroevolution to explain these radiations. We are also working to develop a first step on this new framework (to be submitted soon).
3. Macroecology and macroevolution as tools in the conservation of reptiles and amphibians
I am also interested in trying to integrate macroevolution and macroecology approaches with conservation studies to improve conservation strategies for reptiles and amphibians. Currently, we are investigating why some New World vipers are rare and how these rarity patterns are related to their threat status. We are using geographic information and ecological data to categorize species according to the seven patterns of rarity proposed by Rabinowitz (1981) and applying some Bayesian GLMModels.
4. Natural history of reptiles and amphibians
Natural history is essential to the understanding and conservation of biodiversity. Many amphibians and reptiles still lack information regarding their natural history and I am interested in elucidate natural history aspects of understudied reptiles and amphibians. Although my current research projects do not explicitly add to the natural history of herps, it is always important to acknowledge that all those macro studies entirely depend on natural history. Without this basic knowledge we can't go much further. Thus, I am always committed in spreading the word about the importance of natural history to my research and also in the education of future biologists.
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