, Volume 158, Issue 2, pp 329–342 | Cite as

Metacommunity patterns in larval odonates

  • Shannon J. McCauleyEmail author
  • Christopher J. Davis
  • Rick A. Relyea
  • Kerry L. Yurewicz
  • David K. Skelly
  • Earl E. Werner
Community Ecology - Original Paper


The growth of metacommunity ecology as a subdiscipline has increased interest in how processes at different spatial scales structure communities. However, there is still a significant knowledge gap with respect to relating the action of niche- and dispersal-assembly mechanisms to observed species distributions across gradients. Surveys of the larval dragonfly community (Odonata: Anisoptera) in 57 lakes and ponds in southeast Michigan were used to evaluate hypotheses about the processes regulating community structure in this system. We considered the roles of both niche- and dispersal-assembly processes in determining patterns of species richness and composition across a habitat gradient involving changes in the extent of habitat permanence, canopy cover, area, and top predator type. We compared observed richness patterns and species distributions in this system to patterns predicted by four general community models: species sorting related to adaptive trade-offs, a developmental constraints hypothesis, dispersal assembly, and a neutral community assemblage. Our results supported neither the developmental constraints nor the neutral-assemblage models. Observed patterns of richness and species distributions were consistent with patterns expected when adaptive tradeoffs and dispersal-assembly mechanisms affect community structure. Adaptive trade-offs appeared to be important in limiting the distributions of species which segregate across the habitat gradient. However, dispersal was important in shaping the distributions of species that utilize habitats with a broad range of hydroperiods and alternative top predator types. Our results also suggest that the relative importance of these mechanisms may change across this habitat gradient and that a metacommunity perspective which incorporates both niche- and dispersal-assembly processes is necessary to understand how communities are organized.


Local-regional Metacommunity Habitat gradient Niche assembly Dispersal assembly 



Many people provided useful comments on this manuscript at various stages in its development, including M. Benard, T. Brodin, J. Middlemas-Brown, D. Dritz, P. Epanchin, S. Fogarty, M. Fraker, D. Goldberg, B. Hazlett, M. Holyoak, S. Lawler, B. Luttbeg, T. Morgan, J. Saltz, S. Schneider, A. Sih, E. Silverman, W. White, and A. Zellmer. Too many researchers to name individually helped with sampling, and we are grateful to all of them. Access to the ESGR was provided by the Museum of Zoology and R. Nussbaum. J. Bolgos provided logistical support. This research was funded by NSF grants: DEB-9727014 to E. Werner, D. Skelly, R. Relyea, and K. Yurewicz, and DEB-0089809 to E. Werner and S. Peacor. S. McCauley received funding to sample water bodies off the ESGR from the Michigan Natural Heritage program funded by citizen contributions to the State of Michigan’s Nongame Wildlife Fund (NH01-034), and from a Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research award. S. McCauley was supported by a University of Michigan Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship during the initial writing of this manuscript, and by a Center for Population Biology Postdoctoral Research Fellowship during the revision of this manuscript. This research complies with the current laws of the United States.

Supplementary material

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Electronic supplementary material S1 (DOC 58 kb)
442_2008_1141_MOESM2_ESM.doc (108 kb)
Electronic supplementary material S2 (DOC 108 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shannon J. McCauley
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • Christopher J. Davis
    • 1
  • Rick A. Relyea
    • 2
  • Kerry L. Yurewicz
    • 3
  • David K. Skelly
    • 4
  • Earl E. Werner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Biological SciencesPlymouth State UniversityPlymouthUSA
  4. 4.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  5. 5.Center for Population BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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