How ecological niche breadth evolves is central to adaptation and speciation and has been a topic of perennial interest. Niche breadth evolution research has occurred within environmental, ecological, evolutionary, and biogeographical contexts, and although some generalities have emerged, critical knowledge gaps exist. Performance breadth trade-offs, although long invoked, may not be common determinants of niche breadth evolution or limits. Niche breadth can expand or contract from specialist or generalist lineages, and so specialization need not be an evolutionary dead end. Whether niche breadth determines diversification and distribution breadth and how niche breadth is partitioned among individuals and populations within a species are important but particularly understudied topics. Molecular genetic and phylogenetic techniques have greatly expanded understanding of niche breadth evolution, but field studies of how niche breadth evolves are essential for providing mechanistic details and allowing the development of comprehensive theory and improved prediction of biological responses under global change.


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