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Interspecific pairwise relationships among body size, clutch size and latitude: deconstructing a macroecological triangle in birds

Authors

  • Alison G. Boyer,

    Corresponding author
      Correspondence and present address: Alison G. Boyer, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution Section, Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, MC 0116, La Jolla, CA 92093-0116, USA. E-mail: agboyer@ucsd.edu.
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  • Jean-Luc E. Cartron,

    1. Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
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  • James H. Brown

    1. Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
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Correspondence and present address: Alison G. Boyer, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution Section, Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, MC 0116, La Jolla, CA 92093-0116, USA. E-mail: agboyer@ucsd.edu.

Abstract

Aim  Ecogeographical ‘rules’, large-scale patterns in ecological variables across geographical space, can provide important insights into the mechanisms of evolution and ecological assembly. However, interactions between rules could obscure both the observation of large-scale patterns and their interpretation. Here, we examine a system of three variables interrelated by ecogeographical rules – the latitudinal increase in body size within closely related homeotherms (Bergmann’s rule), the negative allometry of clutch size (Calder’s rule) and the latitudinal increase in clutch size (Lack’s rule) – in a global dataset of birds.

Location  Global.

Methods  We used linear regressions and meta-analysis techniques to quantify the three rules across clades and through the taxonomic hierarchy. Path analysis was used to quantify interactions between rules at multiple taxonomic levels, as a function of both phylogenetic inheritance of traits and indirect feedbacks between the three rules. Independent contrasts analyses were performed on four clades with available phylogenies, and the taxonomic partitioning of variation in each trait was quantified.

Results  Standardizing across all clades, Lack’s and Bergmann’s rules were supported at all taxonomic levels, with Calder’s rule being supported at the order level. Lack’s rule was consistently stronger and more often detected than the other two rules. Path analysis showed that the indirect effects often outweighed the direct effects of Calder’s rule at the genus level and Bergmann’s rule at the order level. Strong interactions between Calder’s and Bergmann’s rules led to a trade-off between the rules depending on taxonomic resolution.

Main conclusions  We found strong interactions between Bergmann’s, Lack’s and Calder’s rules in birds, and these interactions varied in strength and direction over the taxonomic hierarchy and among avian clades. Ecogeographical rules may be masked by feedbacks from other, correlated variables, even when the underlying selective mechanism is operating. The apparently conflicting pairwise relationships among clutch size, body size and latitude illustrate the difficulty of interpreting individual pairwise correlations without recognition of interdependence with other variables.

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