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Phylogenetic limiting similarity and competitive exclusion

Authors

  • Cyrille Violle,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA
    2. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
    3. Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive-UMR 5175, CNRS, Montpellier, France
      E-mail: cyrille.violle@cefe.cnrs.fr
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  • Diana R. Nemergut,

    1. Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
    2. Environmental Studies Program, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
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  • Zhichao Pu,

    1. School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA
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  • Lin Jiang

    1. School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA
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E-mail: cyrille.violle@cefe.cnrs.fr

Abstract

Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 782–787

Abstract

One of the oldest ecological hypotheses, proposed by Darwin, suggests that the struggle for existence is stronger between more closely related species. Despite its long history, the validity of this phylogenetic limiting similarity hypothesis has rarely been examined. Here we provided a formal experimental test of the hypothesis using pairs of bacterivorous protist species in a multigenerational experiment. Consistent with the hypothesis, both the frequency and tempo of competitive exclusion, and the reduction in the abundance of inferior competitors, increased with increasing phylogenetic relatedness of the competing species. These results were linked to protist mouth size, a trait potentially related to resource use, exhibiting a significant phylogenetic signal. The likelihood of coexistence, however, was better predicted by phylogenetic relatedness than trait similarity of the competing species. Our results support phylogenetic relatedness as a useful predictor of the outcomes of competitive interactions in ecological communities.

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