Dec 14, 2015

Radiating despite a lack of character: closely related, morphologically similar, co-occurring honeyeaters have diverged ecologically

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Eliot T MillerRobert E Ricklefs


The 75 species of Australian honeyeaters (Meliphagidae) are morphologically and ecologically diverse, with species feeding on nectar, insects, fruit, and other resources. We investigated ecomorphology and community structure of honeyeaters across Australia. First, we asked to what degree morphology and ecology (foraging behavior) are concordant. Second, we estimated rates of trait evolution. Third, we compared phylogenetic and trait community structure across the broad environmental gradients of continental Australia. We found that morphology explained 37% of the variance in ecology (and 62% vice versa), and that recovered multivariate ecomorphological relationships incorporated well-known bivariate relationships. Clades of large-bodied species exhibited elevated rates of morphological trait evolution, while members of Melithreptus showed slightly faster rates of ecological trait evolution. Finally, ecological trait diversity did not decline in parallel with phylogenetic diversity along a gradient of decreasing precipitation. We employ a new method (trait fields) and extend another (phylogenetic fields) to show that while species from phylogenetically clustered assemblages co-occur with morphologically similar species, these sp...Continue Reading

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Mentioned in this Paper

Science of Morphology
Phylogenetic Analysis
Gene Clusters
Plant Nectar

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