Present address: Institute of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.
Species co-existence and character divergence across carnivores
Article first published online: 15 JAN 2007
Volume 10, Issue 2, pages 146–152, February 2007
How to Cite
Jonathan Davies, T., Meiri, S., Barraclough, T. G. and Gittleman, J. L. (2007), Species co-existence and character divergence across carnivores. Ecology Letters, 10: 146–152. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2006.01005.x
- Issue published online: 15 JAN 2007
- Article first published online: 15 JAN 2007
- Editor, Craig Moritz Manuscript received 30 October 2006 First decision made 14 November 2006 Manuscript accepted 1 December 2006
- character displacement;
- ecological species sorting;
Co-occurring species might be morphologically similar because they are adapted to the same environment, or morphologically dissimilar to minimize competition. We use sister species comparisons to evaluate the relationship between morphological disparity and regional patterns of co-occurrence across carnivores. Up to 63% of the variation in range overlap can be explained by morphological divergence in dentition. Species that differ more in carnassial tooth length overlap more in their geographical range. Carnassials are the primary teeth associated with food processing, and hence difference in carnassial size may be a good indicator of difference in resource use. We suggest this pattern is consistent with competition in sympatry driving ecological character displacement, or competitive exclusion among ecologically similar species. Our study uses newly available data on global distributions, morphology and phylogeny, and is the first to demonstrate a close relationship between morphological disparity and co-occurrence at a regional scale encompassing multiple communities.