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We combine evolutionary biology and community ecology to test whether two species traits, body size and geographic range, explain long term variation in local scale freshwater stream fish assemblages. Body size and geographic range are expected to influence several aspects of fish ecology, via relationships with niche breadth, dispersal, and abundance. These traits are expected to scale inversely with niche breadth or current abundance, and to scale directly with dispersal potential. However, their utility to explain long term temporal patterns in local scale abundance is not known. Comparative methods employing an existing molecular phylogeny were used to incorporate evolutionary relatedness in a test for covariation of body size and geographic range with long term (1983 – 2010) local scale population variation of fishes in West Fork White River (Indiana, USA). The Bayesian model incorporating phylogenetic uncertainty and correlated predictors indicated that neither body size nor geographic range explained significant variation in population fluctuations over a 28 year period. Phylogenetic signal data indicated that body size and geographic range were less similar among taxa than expected if trait evolution followed a purely random walk. We interpret this as evidence that local scale population variation may be influenced less by species-level traits such as body size or geographic range, and instead may be influenced more strongly by a taxon’s local scale habitat and biotic assemblages.


Copyright: © 2014 Jacquemin, Doll. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.