Phylogenetic tree shape and the structure of mutualistic networks

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Authors: Chamberlain, S; Vazquez, DP; Carvalheiro, L; Elle, E; Vamosi, JC
Year: 2014
Journal: Journal of Ecology 102: 1234-1243   Article Link (DOI)
Title: Phylogenetic tree shape and the structure of mutualistic networks
Abstract: 1. Species community composition is known to alter the network of interactions between two trophic levels, potentially affecting its functioning (e. g. plant pollination success) and the stability of communities. Phylogenies vary in shape with regard to the rate of evolutionary change across a tree (influencing tree balance) and variation in the timing of branching events (affecting the distribution of node ages in trees), both of which may influence the structure of species interaction networks. Because related species are likely to share many of the traits that regulate interactions, the shape of phylogenetic trees may provide some insights into the distribution of traits within communities, and hence the likelihood of interaction among species. However, little attention has been paid to the potential effects of changes in phylogenetic diversity (PD) on interaction networks. 2. Phylogenetic diversity is influenced by species diversity within a community, but also how distantly-related the constituent species are from one another. Here, we evaluate the relationship between two important measures of phylogenetic diversity (tree shape and age of nodes) and the structure of plant-pollinator interaction networks using empirical and simulated data. Whereas the former allows us to evaluate patterns in real communities, the latter allows us to evaluate more systematically the relationship between tree shape and network structure under three different models of trait evolution. 3. In empirical networks, less balanced plant phylogenies were associated with lower connectance in interaction networks indicating that communities with the descendants of recent radiations are more diverged and specialized in their partnerships. In simulations, tree balance and the distribution of nodes through time were included in the best models for modularity, and the second best models for connectance and nestedness. In models assuming random evolutionary change through time (i.e. Brownian motion), less balanced trees and trees with nodes near the tips exhibited greater modularity, whereas in models with an early burst of radiation followed by relative stasis (i.e. early-burst models) more balanced trees and trees with nodes near roots had greater modularity. 4. Synthesis. Overall, these results suggest that the shape of phylogenies can influence the structure of plant-pollinator interaction networks. However, the mismatch between simulations and empirical data indicate that no simple model of trait evolution mimics that observed in real communities.
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