Author(s): Peers MJ, Thornton DH, Murray DL
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Abstract Determining the patterns, causes and consequences of character displacement is central to our understanding of competition in ecological communities. However, the majority of competition research has occurred over small spatial extents or focused on fine-scale differences in morphology or behaviour. The effects of competition on broad-scale distribution and niche characteristics of species remain poorly understood but critically important. Using range-wide species distribution models, we evaluated whether Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) or bobcat (Lynx rufus) were displaced in regions of sympatry. Consistent with our prediction, we found that lynx niches were less similar to those of bobcat in areas of sympatry versus allopatry, with a stronger reliance on snow cover driving lynx niche divergence in the sympatric zone. By contrast, bobcat increased niche breadth in zones of sympatry, and bobcat niches were equally similar to those of lynx in zones of sympatry and allopatry. These findings suggest that competitively disadvantaged species avoid competition at large scales by restricting their niche to highly suitable conditions, while superior competitors expand the diversity of environments used. Our results indicate that competition can manifest within climatic niche space across species' ranges, highlighting the importance of biotic interactions occurring at large spatial scales on niche dynamics.
This article was published in Proc Biol Sci
and referenced in Forest Research: Open Access