Phylogenetic and functional underdispersion in Neotropical phyllostomid bat communities


Habitat conversion creates a mosaic of land cover types, which affect the spatial distribution, diversity, and abundance of resources. We used abundance, functional, and phylogenetic information to determine if Neotropical bat communities exhibited phylogenetic or functional overdispersion or underdispersion in response to habitat conversion. Overdispersion suggests the operation of intraclade competition, niche partitioning, limiting similarity, or character displacement, whereas underdispersion indicates the operation of interclade competition, abiotic filtering, or biotic filtering. We expected (1) biotic filtering in landscapes with extensive forest loss to result in underdispersion; (2) niche partitioning in heterogeneous landscapes with intermediate forest loss to result in overdispersion; and (3) intraclade competition during times of low resource abundance (i.e ., dry season) to increase, resulting in overdispersion. Most bat communities exhibited phylogenetic or functional underdispersion; none exhibited overdispersion. Expectations were not met: underdispersion did not increase with forest loss, heterogeneous landscapes did not induce overdispersion, and no evidence supported the contention that intraclade competition changed with season. Empirical responses were season‐specific, likely because resource availability may affect relationships between forest cover and underdispersion and between biodiversity and underdispersion. During the dry season, only high diversity sites exhibited underdispersion (i.e ., functional or phylogenetic redundancy), whereas underdispersion occurred in low, intermediate, or high diversity communities during the wet season; we suggest that this difference likely arises due to changes in resource abundance. Communities with high diversity and redundancy occupied heterogeneous sites during the dry season, but communities with high redundancy were restricted to large forest reserves during the wet season.

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