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Contrasting evidence of phylogenetic trophic niche conservatism in mammals worldwide

AuthorsOlalla-Tárraga, Miguel Á.; González-Suárez, M. CSIC ORCID; Bernardo-Madrid, Rubén; Revilla, Eloy CSIC ORCID ; Villalobos, Fabricio
Issue Date2017
CitationJournal of Biogeography, 44(1): 99-110 (2017)
AbstractPhylogenetic niche conservatism (PNC), a pattern of closely related species retaining ancestral niche-related traits over evolutionary time, is well documented for abiotic (Grinellian) dimensions of the ecological niche. However, it remains unclear whether biotic niche (Eltonian) axes are also phylogenetically conserved, even though knowledge of biotic niches is essential to an understanding of the spatiotemporal dynamics of ecological communities. We conduct the first analysis of biotic PNC by evaluating dietary specialization in a vertebrate class. Location Global. Methods We analysed two global compilations of diets of living mammals and a more detailed database for large carnivores together with a species-level phylogeny to evaluate trophic PNC. We searched for evidence of PNC by estimating the phylogenetic signal in distinct descriptors of dietary niche. Results Trophic niches were generally similar among related species but not strongly conserved under a niche-drift macroevolutionary model (Brownian motion). The degree of similarity in trophic niche varied among different taxonomic groups and was, importantly, even within the same group, contingent on the metric of dietary preferences used and the quality of information on the database. Main conclusions Overall, our results showed limited support for PNC in the trophic niche of mammals. However, different data sources and metrics of dietary preferences sometimes offered different conclusions, highlighting the importance of gathering high-quality quantitative data and considering multiple metrics to describe dietary niche breadth and to assess PNC. The fully quantitative database for large carnivores provided some interesting evidence of PNC that could not be detected with semi-quantitative or presence/absence descriptors. Subsequent assessments of phylogenetic imprints on dietary specialization would benefit from considering different metrics and using well-resolved phylogenies jointly with detailed quantitative diet information. While Eltonian trophic niches did not show the same high levels of evolutionary conservatism often displayed by Grinnellian niches, both niche components should be considered to understand range limits of species and clades at biogeographic scales.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jbi.12823
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