1. Ecological specialisation is an important mechanism enhancing species coexistence within a given community. Yet, unravelling the effect of multiple selective evolutionary and ecological factors leading the process of specialisation remains a key challenge in ecology. Subterranean habitats provide highly replicated experimental arenas in which to disentangle the relative contribution of evolutionary history (convergent evolution vs character displacement) and ecological setting (environmental filtering vs competitive exclusion) in driving community assembly. 2. We tested alternative hypotheses about the emergence of ecological specialisation using the radiation of a lineage of sheet-weaver cave-dwelling spiders as model system. We observed that at the local scale, a differential specialisation to cave microhabitats generally parallels moderate levels of morphological similarity and close phylogenetic relatedness among species. Conversely, geographic distance contributed little in explaining microhabitat occupation, possibly mirroring a limited role of competitive exclusion. Yet, compared to noncoexisting species, co-occurring species adapted to different microhabitats showed lower morphological niche overlap (i.e. higher dissimilarity) and deeper genetic distance. 3. The framework here developed suggests that in the subterranean domain, habitat specialisation is primarily driven by environmental filtering, secondarily by convergent evolution, and only marginally by character displacement or competitive exclusion. This pattern results in the establishment of replicated communities across geographical space, composed by ecologically equivalent species. Such process of community assembly well explains the numerous adaptive radiations observed in subterranean habitats, an ecoevolutionary pattern well documented in oceanic islands or mountain summit communities.

Environmental filtering and convergent evolution determine the ecological specialisation of subterranean spiders

Mammola, Stefano;John Dejanaz, Andrea;Isaia, Marco
2020-01-01

Abstract

1. Ecological specialisation is an important mechanism enhancing species coexistence within a given community. Yet, unravelling the effect of multiple selective evolutionary and ecological factors leading the process of specialisation remains a key challenge in ecology. Subterranean habitats provide highly replicated experimental arenas in which to disentangle the relative contribution of evolutionary history (convergent evolution vs character displacement) and ecological setting (environmental filtering vs competitive exclusion) in driving community assembly. 2. We tested alternative hypotheses about the emergence of ecological specialisation using the radiation of a lineage of sheet-weaver cave-dwelling spiders as model system. We observed that at the local scale, a differential specialisation to cave microhabitats generally parallels moderate levels of morphological similarity and close phylogenetic relatedness among species. Conversely, geographic distance contributed little in explaining microhabitat occupation, possibly mirroring a limited role of competitive exclusion. Yet, compared to noncoexisting species, co-occurring species adapted to different microhabitats showed lower morphological niche overlap (i.e. higher dissimilarity) and deeper genetic distance. 3. The framework here developed suggests that in the subterranean domain, habitat specialisation is primarily driven by environmental filtering, secondarily by convergent evolution, and only marginally by character displacement or competitive exclusion. This pattern results in the establishment of replicated communities across geographical space, composed by ecologically equivalent species. Such process of community assembly well explains the numerous adaptive radiations observed in subterranean habitats, an ecoevolutionary pattern well documented in oceanic islands or mountain summit communities.
2020
1
37
cave, biotic interactions, functional traits, n-dimensional hypervolume, niche space, phenotypic variability, subterranean biology, Western Italian Alps
Mammola, Stefano; Arnedo, Miquel A.; Fišer, Cene; Cardoso, Pedro; John Dejanaz, Andrea; Isaia, Marco
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2318/1722977
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