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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2011 Aug 27;366(1576):2391-402. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0057.

Phylogeny, phylogeography, phylobetadiversity and the molecular analysis of biological communities.

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  • 1Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK.


There has been much recent interest and progress in the characterization of community structure and community assembly processes through the application of phylogenetic methods. To date most focus has been on groups of taxa for which some relevant detail of their ecology is known, for which community composition is reasonably easily quantified and where the temporal scale is such that speciation is not likely to feature. Here, we explore how we might apply a molecular genetic approach to investigate community structure and assembly at broad taxonomic and geographical scales, where we have little knowledge of species ecology, where community composition is not easily quantified, and where speciation is likely to be of some importance. We explore these ideas using the class Collembola as a focal group. Gathering molecular evidence for cryptic diversity suggests that the ubiquity of many species of Collembola across the landscape may belie greater community complexity than would otherwise be assumed. However, this morphologically cryptic species-level diversity poses a challenge for attempts to characterize diversity both within and among local species assemblages. Recent developments in high throughput parallel sequencing technology, combined with mtDNA barcoding, provide an advance that can bring together the fields of phylogenetic and phylogeographic analysis to bear on this problem. Such an approach could be standardized for analyses at any geographical scale for a range of taxonomic groups to quantify the formation and composition of species assemblages.

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