African Primate Assemblages Exhibit a Latitudinal Gradient in Dispersal Limitation

Abstract

Recent studies have demonstrated that dispersal limitation, which refers to the limited ability of individuals to reach distant geographic areas, is an important influence on the species that are found in primate assemblages. In this study, we investigate the relative influences of dispersal limitation and environmental filtering in 131 African primate assemblages in 9 biogeographic regions throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, we evaluate the dispersal-ecological specialization hypothesis, which posits that there are trade-offs between dispersal ability and ecological specialization that are influenced by climatic variation along latitudinal gradients. The hypothesis predicts that species in assemblages near the equator, where climatic conditions are more stable, will exhibit stronger dispersal limitation and greater ecological specialization than species within assemblages located further from the equator, where climate is more variable. In contrast, assemblages located at higher latitudes are expected to be influenced more strongly by environmental filtering than dispersal limitation. We used hierarchical cluster analysis to identify regions, conducted partial Mantel tests to evaluate the contributions of dispersal limitation and environmental filtering in each region, and evaluated predictors of those contributions with linear regression. In all regions, dispersal limitation was a stronger predictor of community similarity than was environmental filtering, yet the strength of dispersal limitation varied. Dispersal limitation was greatest at low latitudes and declined with increasing absolute latitude. Thus, primate assemblages exhibited a significant latitudinal gradient in dispersal limitation, but not in environmental filtering. These results support aspects of the dispersal-ecological specialization hypothesis and call for future mechanistic studies to address this broad-scale pattern.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Joanna Setchell for the invitation to contribute to this International Journal of Primatology special issue following the 2013 American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) symposium on primate communities and for editing this paper; Jillian DeBenny and Joshua Kohn for African primate data compilation; Catherine Graham, Sandy Harcourt, Marcel Rejmánek, Kelly Stewart, Katie Feilen, Nicole Sharp, Julie Linden, Dena Clink, and Jay Read for discussion; and two anonymous reviewers for comments that improved this manuscript. This work was supported by University of California Davis fellowships to L. Beaudrot from the Graduate Group in Ecology and the Office of Graduate Studies.

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Correspondence to Lydia Beaudrot.

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Species data references (Appendix S1), locations of sites included and excluded from the study (Appendix S2), the cluster analysis dendrogram (Appendix S3), and partial Mantel test results with an alternative similarity index (βsim index; Appendix S4) are available online. (DOCX 214 kb)

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Beaudrot, L., Kamilar, J.M., Marshall, A.J. et al. African Primate Assemblages Exhibit a Latitudinal Gradient in Dispersal Limitation. Int J Primatol 35, 1088–1104 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-014-9773-5

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Keywords

  • Biogeography
  • Community assembly
  • Gene flow
  • Macroecology
  • Metacommunity
  • Niche
  • Primate communities