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Am Nat. 2003 Oct;162(4):390-402. Epub 2003 Sep 8.

Mapping functional similarity of predators on the basis of trait similarities.

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Department of Ecology, Ethology, and Evolution, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.


Theoretical and empirical studies in community ecology often simplify their study system by lumping together species on the basis of trait similarities (e.g., their taxonomy, resource or microhabitat usage) and then assume species sharing similar traits are functionally similar. To date, no study has directly tested whether species more similar with respect to any of these traits are more similar in their functional effects on population or ecosystem processes. In this study, we examined the association between traits and functional effects of six different aquatic predatory vertebrates. We demonstrated that functional similarity across multiple response variables was not correlated with trait similarity, but differences in trait values were associated with significantly different effects on individual response variables. The exact relationship between species traits and functional effect of predators, however, was different for each response variable. Using traits to predict functional similarity among species may be useful when considering individual response variables, but only if it is known which traits have the greatest influence on the response variable of interest. It is doubtful that any one scheme will predict the functional similarity of species across a diverse array of response variables because each response will likely be strongly influenced by different traits.

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