Large body size constrains dispersal assembly of communities even across short distances

Abstract : Dispersal limitation has been considered to decrease with body size in animals and to be an important factor limiting community assembly on spatially isolated patches. Here we hypothesize that for flightless bark-dwelling oribatid mites dispersal limitation onto young trees might increase with body size (due to a decrease in aerial dispersal capacities), and it might occur even within a spatially contiguous forest canopy. We suppressed dispersal limitation towards branches from young trees by physically connecting them to branches from old trees and analyzed the impacts on community composition, accounting for branch microhabitat variables. Suppression of dispersal limitation increased community evenness and mean body size of mites on branches from young trees. Across all species, large species body-size corresponds to an abundance increase after suppression of dispersal limitation. Consistently, on no-contact control branches, mite body-sizes were larger on branches from old compared to young trees. Our study suggests that colonization/performance trade-offs might affect community assembly even across seemingly contiguous habitats. Overall, a previously underappreciated factor selecting against large body size in flightless canopy-dwelling invertebrates might be that large bodies makes these invertebrates fall faster and disperse less, not more.
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Richard I. Bailey, Freerk Molleman, Chloe Vasseur, Steffen Woas, Andreas Prinzing. Large body size constrains dispersal assembly of communities even across short distances. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2018, 8 (1), ⟨10.1038/s41598-018-29042-0⟩. ⟨hal-01861277⟩

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