Latitudinal gradients in abundance, and the causes of rarity in the tropics: a test using Australian honeyeaters (Aves: Meliphagidae)

Symonds, Matthew R. E., Christidis, Les and Johnson, Christopher N. 2006, Latitudinal gradients in abundance, and the causes of rarity in the tropics: a test using Australian honeyeaters (Aves: Meliphagidae), Oecologia, vol. 149, no. 3, pp. 406-417, doi: 10.1007/s00442-006-0456-6.

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Title Latitudinal gradients in abundance, and the causes of rarity in the tropics: a test using Australian honeyeaters (Aves: Meliphagidae)
Author(s) Symonds, Matthew R. E.ORCID iD for Symonds, Matthew R. E. orcid.org/0000-0002-9785-6045
Christidis, Les
Johnson, Christopher N.
Journal name Oecologia
Volume number 149
Issue number 3
Start page 406
End page 417
Total pages 12
Publisher Springer
Place of publication Heidelberg, Germany
Publication date 2006
ISSN 0029-8549
1432-1939
Keyword(s) birds
climate
evolutionary age
latitude
population density
Summary Several studies have uncovered interspecific latitudinal gradients in abundance (population density) such that tropical species tend to be, on average, less abundant than species at higher latitudes. The causes of this relationship remain poorly studied, in contrast to the relative wealth of literature examining the relationship to latitude of other variables such as range size and body mass. We used a cross-species phylogenetic comparative approach and a spatial approach to examine three potential determining factors (distribution, reproductive output and climate) that might explain why abundance correlates with latitude, using data from 54 species of honeyeaters (Meliphagidae) in woodland environments in eastern Australia. There is a strong positive correlation between mean abundance and latitude in these birds. Reproductive output (clutch size) was positively linked to both abundance and latitude, but partial correlation analysis revealed that clutch size is not related to abundance once the effects of latitude are removed. A subsequent multiple regression model that also considered range size, clutch size and body mass showed that latitude is the only strong predictor of abundance in honeyeaters. In the separate spatial analysis, the climatic variables that we considered (temperature, rainfall and seasonality) were all strongly linked to latitude, but none served as a better predictor of abundance than latitude per se, either individually or collectively. The most intriguing result of our analyses was that the cross-species latitudinal pattern in abundance was not evident within species. This suggests an intrinsic cause of the pattern of ‘rarity in the tropics’ in Australian honeyeaters. We suggest that evolutionary age may provide a key to understanding patterns of abundance in these birds.
Language eng
DOI 10.1007/s00442-006-0456-6
Field of Research 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology)
060309 Phylogeny and Comparative Analysis
060809 Vertebrate Biology
Socio Economic Objective 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2006, Springer
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30039063

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