The spatial analysis of biological interactions: morphological variation responding to the co-occurrence of competitors and resources

Tovilla-Sierra, Rosa Daniela; Herrera-Alsina, Leonel; Bribiesca, Rafael; Arita, Hector

8 October 2019

By sharing geographic space, species are forced to interact with one another and the contribution of this process to evolutionary and ecological patterns of individual species is not fully understood. At the same time, species turnover makes that species composition varies from one area to another, so the analysis of biological interaction cannot be uncoupled from the spatial context. This is particularly important for clades that show high degree of specialization such as hummingbirds, where any variation in biotic pressures might lead to changes in morphology. Here, we describe the influence of biological interactions on the morphology of Hylocharis leucotis by simultaneously considering potential competition and diet resources. We characterized the extent of local potential competition and local available floral resources by correlating two measurements of hummingbird diversity, floral resources and the size of morphological space of H. leucotis along its geographic distribution. We found that H. leucotis shows an important morphological variability across its range and two groups can be recognized. Surprisingly, morphological variation is not always linked to local hummingbird richness or the phylogenetic similarity of. Only in the southern part of its distribution, H. leucotis is morphologically more variable in those communities where it coexist with closely related hummingbird species. We also found that morphological variation in H. leucotis is independent from the availability of floral resources. Our results suggest that abiotic factors might be responsible for morphological differences across populations in Hylocharis leucotis being biological interactions of minor importance.

Doi
10.1111/jav.02223