Filtering across Spatial Scales: Phylogeny, Biogeography and Community Structure in Bumble Bees

Alexandra N. Harmon-Threatt, David D. Ackerly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the expansion of phylogenetic community analysis to understand community assembly, few studies have used these methods on mobile organisms and it has been suggested the local scales that are typically considered may be too small to represent the community as perceived by organisms with high mobility. Mobility is believed to allow species to mediate competitive interactions quickly and thus highly mobile species may appear randomly assembled in local communities. At larger scales, however, biogeographical processes could cause communities to be either phylogenetically clustered or even. Using phylogenetic community analysis we examined patterns of relatedness and trait similarity in communities of bumble bees (Bombus) across spatial scales comparing: local communities to regional pools, regional communities to continental pools and the continental community to a global species pool. Species composition and data on tongue lengths, a key foraging trait, were used to test patterns of relatedness and trait similarity across scales. Although expected to exhibit limiting similarity, local communities were clustered both phenotypically and phylogenetically. Larger spatial scales were also found to have more phylogenetic clustering but less trait clustering. While patterns of relatedness in mobile species have previously been suggested to exhibit less structure in local communities and to be less clustered than immobile species, we suggest that mobility may actually allow communities to have more similar species that can simply limit direct competition through mobility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere60446
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 27 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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