Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biological Sciences

Document Type



Life’s diversity is not spread evenly across all lineages, and this unevenness is thought to be due, in part, to a few interwoven factors: biogeographic history, the evolution of successful functional traits, and the ecological opportunity these traits afford. My dissertation focuses on the evolution of a species-rich and morphologically diverse clade of mammals, the murine rodents (Murinae; Muridae; Rodentia) to address 1) morphological adaptations associated with niche transition to arboreality 2) the effect of repeated ecological transitions on murine diversification, and 3) the role of atypical ecological niches in the assembly of hyperdiverse communities. My dissertation has revealed that ecological specialization, such as arboreality, and morphological adaptation co-occur and foster the invasion of new niches. I have also found that specialization, particularly locomotor specialization such as arboreality and amphibiosity, increases with community richness, fostering diverse communities of closely related species that are able to partition rather than directly compete for similar resources. My dissertation highlights that lineages in this diverse clade of mammals repeatedly evolve towards predictable ecologies, providing a pathway for the increase of species richness in high-diversity tropical communities.



Committee Chair

Esselstyn, Jacob