Ecological interactions are evolutionary conserved across the entire tree of life

Departamento de Ecología, Universidad de Granada, E-18071 Granada, Spain.
Nature (Impact Factor: 41.46). 06/2010; 465(7300):918-21. DOI: 10.1038/nature09113
Source: PubMed


Ecological interactions are crucial to understanding both the ecology and the evolution of organisms. Because the phenotypic traits regulating species interactions are largely a legacy of their ancestors, it is widely assumed that ecological interactions are phylogenetically conserved, with closely related species interacting with similar partners. However, the existing empirical evidence is inadequate to appropriately evaluate the hypothesis of phylogenetic conservatism in ecological interactions, because it is both ecologically and taxonomically biased. In fact, most studies on the evolution of ecological interactions have focused on specialized organisms, such as some parasites or insect herbivores, belonging to a limited subset of the overall tree of life. Here we study the evolution of host use in a large and diverse group of interactions comprising both specialist and generalist acellular, unicellular and multicellular organisms. We show that, as previously found for specialized interactions, generalized interactions can be evolutionarily conserved. Significant phylogenetic conservatism of interaction patterns was equally likely to occur in symbiotic and non-symbiotic interactions, as well as in mutualistic and antagonistic interactions. Host-use differentiation among species was higher in phylogenetically conserved clades, irrespective of their generalization degree and taxonomic position within the tree of life. Our findings strongly suggest a shared pattern in the organization of biological systems through evolutionary time, mediated by marked conservatism of ecological interactions among taxa.

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Available from: Francisco Perfectti, Oct 06, 2015
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    • "Given all the above, niche conservatism (i.e., the tendency of species to retain ancestral conditions, Wiens et al., 2010) seems the most plausible process to account for the observed distributional pattern of the two Lebbeus sister species. It is now well known that ecological interactions are evolutionarily conserved, both in cases of specialised and generalised interactions (Gómez et al., 2010), and that the evolution of specialisation, e.g., the adaptation to a specific environment, implies a covariation of the genotype with environmental performance (Poisot et al., 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: We report a remarkable case of ‘bipolarism’, where two different polar species, namely Lebbeus polaris in the northern hemisphere and Lebbeus kiae n. sp., here described from the Southern Ocean, have been found to share similar ecologies. Despite the great geographical distance between the two species, both show high host fidelity in associations with two congeneric sea anemones: Bolocera tuediae and Bolocera kerguelensis, respectively. A close molecular phylogenetic relationship between the two Lebbeus species is indicated by COI data, which clearly show them as sister clades with respect to other congeners as well as a plurality of other Antarctic species. This is the first reported case of a defensive association in the Southern Ocean involving shrimps and sea anemones. The distribution of the new species, limited to seamount systems off the Ross Sea, may be the result of a specific colonisation/speciation event in the past, although more molecular data are needed to unravel the phylogenetic relationships within the genus Lebbeus. Despite this uncertainty, the persistence of ecological traits, i.e., the defensive association with sea anemones, indicates the presence of niche conservatism in this clade of shrimps.
    Hydrobiologia 07/2015; DOI:10.1007/s10750-015-2403-1 · 2.28 Impact Factor
    • "The classic interpretation of phylogenetic patterns is based on the presence of a phylogenetic signal in trait evolution (trait conservatism), by which close relatives share similar trait values and thus similar habitat use (Blomberg and Garland, 2002; Wiens et al., 2010; Burns and Strauss, 2011). Studies have found several functional traits, including reproductive , morphological, and physiological, to be conserved in the phylogeny of various taxa (Prinzing et al., 2001; Blomberg et al., 2003; Gomez et al., 2010; Liu et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Phylogenetic ecology complements trait-based analysis on community assembly by considering that species are not independent units but are related to each other by their evolutionary history. Phylogenetic patterns clustered when there are more close relatives than expected by chance or overdispersed with less close relatives than expected. Patterns among species in a community indicate underlying biotic and abiotic processes acting on species functional traits. However, phylogenetic ecology has seldom been applied to forest restoration. We used floristic and abundance data from six forest restoration sites of different ages and four old-growth reference forests in the Brazilian Atlantic forest to evaluate similarities in phylogenetic patterns between restoration and reference forests as a measure of restoration success. The presence of an initial tree canopy in restoration forests conducted by planting species increases seed dispersal. Nevertheless, we expected random phylogenetic patterns early in restoration due to dispersal limitation in a highly fragmented landscape. As time since planting increases and in reference forests, we expected less of an effect of dispersal on community composition and more of an effect of negative biotic interactions among close relatives to lead to overdispersed patterns. We did not find a clear trajectory showing that restoration sites would resemble the phylogenetic patterns of reference sites with age since planting. We found significant clustering patterns in two sites, the oldest restoration site and one reference forest. The other reference forests showed, non-significant yet clustering tendencies. The functional traits studied were less conserved than expected by chance, therefore, we cannot relate clustering to be solely the result of environmental filters leading to the presence of close relatives with similar habitat requirements. The presence of closely related species in the Meliaceae family in reference forests and in the oldest restoration site, which was next to a forest remnant, points toward dispersal as the main factor driving phylogenetic patterns in the sites studied. Despite the use of a high number of planted species, differences in the composition of planted species among sites also affected the observed phylogenetic structure. We believe that phylogenetic ecology complements floristic studies by providing information on trait conservatism and shedding light on community assembly processes that affect the successional trajectory of restoration forest.
    Forest Ecology and Management 06/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.foreco.2015.05.026 · 2.66 Impact Factor
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    • "The possibility remains that some key niche adaptations that are little conserved throughout the evolutionary history of the lineages may have produced extinction patterns resembling those produced by functional equivalences, even when they are not (see Appendix S4). However, evidence suggests that both life history (Davies et al., 2013) and ecological interactions (Gómez et al., 2010) exhibit phylogenetic conservatism in plants. "
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    ABSTRACT: AimAlthough biological invasions represent a major cause of biodiversity loss, the actual mechanisms driving species extinctions remain insufficiently understood. Here we investigate the role of three processes as drivers of phylogenetic loss in invaded local plant communities, namely the ‘biotic resistance’, ‘environmental filtering’ and ‘functional equivalence’ hypotheses.LocationBalearic Islands (western Mediterranean).Methods We quantified the phylogenetic diversity and structure of 109 pairs of invaded and non-invaded local plant communities from two Mediterranean islands. Each pair contained one control plot and one plot invaded either by the deciduous tree Ailanthus altissima, the succulent subshrubs Carpobrotus spp. or the pseudoannual geophyte Oxalis pes-caprae. We combined generalized linear models, analyses of phylogenetic community structure and generalized linear mixed models using a Markov chain Monte Carlo technique (MCMCglmm) to contrast the ‘biotic resistance’, ‘environmental filtering’ and ‘functional equivalence’ hypotheses.ResultsWhile the phylogenetic structure of the non-invaded communities was not more clustered or overdispersed than expected by chance, minimum phylogenetic distance to the invasive species increased in invaded assemblages, in which the magnitude of phylogenetic diversity loss ranged from 6 to 37% depending on the invader's identity. Invader or island identity did not explain the probabilities of native species becoming locally extinct. Rather, the likelihood of extinction was mainly explained by species abundance, with scarcer species exhibiting a higher chance of becoming locally extinct. Species identity explained a small fraction of the variation in extinction risk (12%), independently of each species' evolutionary history.Main conclusionsThe most relevant driver of local extinction is a stochastic process where less abundant species tend to disappear more frequently irrespective of their evolutionary history. This has strong implications for conservation because it suggests that in the study region the invaders are unlikely to drive regional and global extinctions except in cases where the native species is already rare.
    05/2015; 24(7). DOI:10.1111/geb.12310
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