Latitudinal gradients in the phenetic diversity of New World bat communities

Richard D. Stevens, Michael R. Willig, Richard E. Strauss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Although the examination of latitudinal gradients of species richness is common, little attention has been devoted to other components of biodiversity such as phenetic diversity. Because the phenotype reflects aspects of an organism's environment, ecological relationships and evolutionary history, measures of phenetic diversity likely provide complimentary information to that of species richness, and may provide unique insights for understanding the mechanistic basis to patterns of biodiversity. Herein, we evaluate latitudinal gradients in the phenetic diversity of 32 New World bat communities. Seven morphological characters were used to estimate phenotypic variation among bat species within local communities. Principal components analysis decomposed this variation into axes of size and shape. Three measures of phenetic diversity were calculated separately for size and for shape axes. The range of species scores on a particular axis described the amount of phenetic variation encompassed by species in a community. The standard deviation of minimum spanning-tree segment lengths described uniformity of species. Average nearest-neighbor distances described local packing. We separately regressed these six measures on local species richness and latitude separately. Variation in species richness accounted for a significant amount of variation in each measure of phenetic diversity. Latitude also accounted for significant variation in phenetic diversity except for the standard deviation of minimum-spanning tree segment lengths and the average nearest-neighbor distance on the shape axis. More importantly, gradients in phenetic diversity were significantly different than would be expected as a consequence of latitudinal gradients in species richness. Nonetheless, when variation among communities regarding the richness and composition of their regional faunas was taken into consideration, differences between empirical and simulated gradients were nonsignificant. Thus, factors that determine the composition of regional faunas have a great impact on the phenetic diversity of communities and ultimately the latitudinal gradient in biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-50
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


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