Population Ecology

, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 213–223 | Cite as

Analyzing Taylor’s Scaling Law: qualitative differences of social and territorial behavior on colonization/extinction dynamics

  • Horacio Samaniego
  • Guillaume Sérandour
  • Bruce T. Milne
Original Article


The power law relation between the mean population count and its variance (Taylor’s Power Law, TPL) is among the few general patterns in population ecology. While the TPL has been described to be pervasive across taxa, the causes of variation of the exponent describing this relation is not well understood. We compare the TPL exponents for two species with different social systems and behavior: Piñon jays (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus) and Western scrub-jays (Aphelocoma californica). We analyze the underlying processes that generate the expected values of population size and its variance. Using a probabilistic model, we identify and estimate important processes involved in the generation of the TPL exponents. While both species show a scaling relationship between their mean and abundance, share a common negative relation between mean abundance and colonization–extinction rates, they differ greatly in the statistical distributions of colonization, extinction, the mean number of colonists, the probability of zero abundance and population sizes. We show how different aspects of the processes that generate abundance affect the TPL exponent, thereby providing empirical guidelines to interpret differences in the scaling relation between mean and variance of population size.


Invariant scaling Mean–variance Population dynamics Population variability Taylor’s Power Law 



We would like to thank the hundreds of volunteer that make the BBS database an invaluable tool to better understand the functioning of nature. James H. Brown, Scott L. Collins, Pablo A. Marquet and Bernardo Broitman provided valuable comments to this manuscript. Funding for this research was provided through the Alvin R. and Caroline G. Grove doctoral scholarship and project DID S-2009-20 of the Research and Development office, Universidad Austral de Chile to HS.

Supplementary material

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10144_2011_287_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (55 kb)
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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Horacio Samaniego
    • 1
    • 2
  • Guillaume Sérandour
    • 3
  • Bruce T. Milne
    • 4
  1. 1.Facultad de Ciencias Forestales y Recursos Naturales, Instituto de SilviculturaUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile
  2. 2.Los Alamos National LaboratoryCenter for Nonlinear StudiesLos AlamosUSA
  3. 3.Facultad de Ciencias de la IngenieríaUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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