Spatial niche differentiation and coexistence at the edge: Co-occurrence distribution patterns in Scurria limpets

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Abstract

Examining the co-occurrence of taxonomically similar species can provide important information about their niches and coexistence. Segregation at smaller scales can be especially relevant for grazers living at the edge of their geographic distribution, because environmental factors can lead to similar distribution. Related grazer species may show dispersive, i.e. uniform, distribution at small scales (few centimetres) to reduce interference among individuals. We examined intra- and interspecific spatial distribution and habitat use in 2 phylogenetically related intertidal limpets, Scurria viridula and S. zebrina, at the polar and equatorial edge of their geographic distribution, respectively, and in S. araucana, a widely distributed species that overlaps the range of the other 2 species across the southeastern Pacific. S. viridula and S. zebrina overlapped in a narrow geographic zone (ca. 250 km) and reached relatively similar densities and sizes. Intraspecific spatial structure estimated through autocorrelation and individual-to-indi vidual distances was random for S. viridula and variable for S. zebrina and S. araucana, depending on the scale considered; S. zebrina was aggregated at the individual-to-individual distances, while S. araucana was mostly random at this scale. Segregated distribution between S. viridula and S. zebrina was observed at the finer scale, whereas the association with S. araucana was random. Abundance of limpets loosely followed major habitats, namely bare rock and the alga Mazzaella laminarioides, which showed patchy distributions. We suggests that similarity in population traits between S. viridula and S. zebrina found in the overlap zone may be compensated by small-scale spatial segregation. Thus, at the edge of their geographic distribution, co existence between related species may be influenced by spatial niche differentiation driven by habitat suitability or competition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-198
Number of pages14
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Volume483
DOIs
StatePublished - 30 May 2013

Keywords

  • Coexistence
  • Geographic edge
  • Grazers
  • Habitat type
  • Nearest neighbour
  • Niche partitioning
  • Spatial autocorrelation

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