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Trait evolution and historical biogeography shape assemblages of annual killifish

By Andrew J. Helmstetter, Tom J M Van Dooren, Alexander S. T. Papadopulos, Javier Igea, Armand M Leroi, Vincent Savolainen

Posted 05 Oct 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/436808 (published DOI: 10.1111/jbi.13912)

Reconstructions of evolutionary and historical biogeographic processes can improve our understanding of how species assemblages developed and permit inference of ecological drivers affecting coexistence. We explore this approach in Austrolebias, a genus of annual fishes possessing a wide range of body sizes. Regional assemblages composed of different species with similar size distributions are found in four areas of eastern South America. Using phylogenetic trees, species distribution models and size data we show how trait evolution and historical biogeography have affected the composition of species assemblages. We extend age-range correlations to improve estimates of local historical biogeography. We find that size variation principally arose in a single area and infer that ecological interactions drove size divergence. This large-size lineage spread to two other areas. One of these assemblages was likely shaped by adaptation to a new environment, but this was not associated with additional size divergence. We found only weak evidence that environmental filtering has been important in the construction of the remaining assemblage with the smallest range of sizes. The repeated assemblage structures were the result of different evolutionary and historical processes. Our approach sheds light on how species assemblages were built when typical clustering approaches may fall short.

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