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Open AccessArticle

The Coupled Influence of Thermal Physiology and Biotic Interactions on the Distribution and Density of Ant Species along an Elevational Gradient

1
Hawken School, Gates Mills, OH 44040, USA
2
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA
3
Department of Biology, Concordia University, Montreal, QC H4B-1R6, Canada
4
Department of Applied Ecology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
5
Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, 1350 Copenhagen, Denmark
6
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2020, 12(12), 456; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12120456
Received: 31 October 2020 / Revised: 23 November 2020 / Accepted: 26 November 2020 / Published: 30 November 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Diversity, Biogeography and Community Ecology of Ants)
A fundamental tenet of biogeography is that abiotic and biotic factors interact to shape the distributions of species and the organization of communities, with interactions being more important in benign environments, and environmental filtering more important in stressful environments. This pattern is often inferred using large databases or phylogenetic signal, but physiological mechanisms underlying such patterns are rarely examined. We focused on 18 ant species at 29 sites along an extensive elevational gradient, coupling experimental data on critical thermal limits, null model analyses, and observational data of density and abundance to elucidate factors governing species’ elevational range limits. Thermal tolerance data showed that environmental conditions were likely to be more important in colder, more stressful environments, where physiology was the most important constraint on the distribution and density of ant species. Conversely, the evidence for species interactions was strongest in warmer, more benign conditions, as indicated by our observational data and null model analyses. Our results provide a strong test that biotic interactions drive the distributions and density of species in warm climates, but that environmental filtering predominates at colder, high-elevation sites. Such a pattern suggests that the responses of species to climate change are likely to be context-dependent and more specifically, geographically-dependent. View Full-Text
Keywords: ants; community structure; physiology; interactions; temperature ants; community structure; physiology; interactions; temperature
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MDPI and ACS Style

Chick, L.D.; Lessard, J.-P.; Dunn, R.R.; Sanders, N.J. The Coupled Influence of Thermal Physiology and Biotic Interactions on the Distribution and Density of Ant Species along an Elevational Gradient. Diversity 2020, 12, 456.

AMA Style

Chick LD, Lessard J-P, Dunn RR, Sanders NJ. The Coupled Influence of Thermal Physiology and Biotic Interactions on the Distribution and Density of Ant Species along an Elevational Gradient. Diversity. 2020; 12(12):456.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Chick, Lacy D.; Lessard, Jean-Philippe; Dunn, Robert R.; Sanders, Nathan J. 2020. "The Coupled Influence of Thermal Physiology and Biotic Interactions on the Distribution and Density of Ant Species along an Elevational Gradient" Diversity 12, no. 12: 456.

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