Bridging the gap between community ecology and historical biogeography: Niche conservatism and community structure in emydid turtles

P. R. Stephens, J. J. Wiens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

Historical (phylogenetic) biogeography and community ecology were once integrated as part of the broader study of organismal diversity, but in recent decades have become largely separate disciplines. This is unfortunate because many patterns studied by community ecologists may originate through processes studied by historical biogeographers and vice versa. In this study, we explore the causes of a geographic pattern of community structure (habitat use) in the emydid turtle assemblages of eastern North America, with more semi-terrestrial species of the subfamily Emydinae in the north and more aquatic species of Deirochelyinae in the south. Specifically, we address the factors that prevent northern emydines from invading southern communities. We test for competitive exclusion by examining patterns of range overlap, and test for the role of niche conservatism using analyses of climatic and physiological data based on a multilocus molecular phylogeny. We find no support for competitive exclusion, whereas several lines of evidence support the idea that niche conservatism has prevented northern emydines from dispersing into southern communities. Our results show how understanding the causes of patterns of historical biogeography may help explain patterns of community structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4664-4679
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular ecology
Volume18
Issue number22
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Community ecology
  • Emydidae
  • Historical biogeography
  • Niche conservatism
  • Phylogeny
  • Turtles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics

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