Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 586-604

First online:

Connections between ecology, biogeography, and paleobiology: Relationship between local abundance and geographic distribution in fossil and recent molluscs

  • Brian J. EnquistAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of New Mexico
  • , Mark A. JordanAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of New Mexico
  • , James H. BrownAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of New Mexico

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We used data on Contemporary and Pleistocene molluscs at one site in the Gulf of California to evaluate and extend earlier ideas about the relationship between local abundance and geographic distribution. For each species whose shells occurred in one Recent and two Pleistocene deposits, we measured its abundance in the sample and relative latitudinal position within its contemporary geographic range. Species near the edges of their ranges showed uniformly low abundances, whereas those near the centres exhibited a wide range of abundances. Species near the edges of their ranges also appear to have exhibited greater changes in abundance, including more colonization and extinction events, between the Pleistocene interglacial sample and the Recent one. The constraint of location in the geographic range on maximal local and regional abundance appears to offer an example of a connection between patterns and processes on local, regional, and geographical scales. Characteristics of community structure, such as relative abundance of individual species and frequency of local co-existence of multiple species, may be influenced by the location of the sample site with respect to the geographic ranges of the constituent species. These results demonstrate emergent, statistical features of population ecology and community organization that are manifest over geographic space and evolutionary time.


abundance geographic range turnover mollusc assemblages Pleistocene macroecology biogeography fossils