Climate and species richness predict the phylogenetic structure of African mammal communities

Jason M. Kamilar, Lydia Beaudrot, Kaye Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


We have little knowledge of how climatic variation (and by proxy, habitat variation) influences the phylogenetic structure of tropical communities. Here, we quantified the phylogenetic structure of mammal communities in Africa to investigate how community structure varies with respect to climate and species richness variation across the continent. In addition, we investigated how phylogenetic patterns vary across carnivores, primates, and ungulates. We predicted that climate would differentially affect the structure of communities from different clades due to between-clade biological variation. We examined 203 communities using two metrics, the net relatedness (NRI) and nearest taxon (NTI) indices. We used simultaneous autoregressive models to predict community phylogenetic structure from climate variables and species richness. We found that most individual communities exhibited a phylogenetic structure consistent with a null model, but both climate and species richness significantly predicted variation in community phylogenetic metrics. Using NTI, species rich communities were composed of more distantly related taxa for all mammal communities, as well as for communities of carnivorans or ungulates. Temperature seasonality predicted the phylogenetic structure of mammal, carnivoran, and ungulate communities, and annual rainfall predicted primate community structure. Additional climate variables related to temperature and rainfall also predicted the phylogenetic structure of ungulate communities. We suggest that both past interspecific competition and habitat filtering have shaped variation in tropical mammal communities. The significant effect of climatic factors on community structure has important implications for the diversity of mammal communities given current models of future climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0121808
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 15 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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