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Am Nat. 2004 Jul;164(1):E1-19. Epub 2004 May 28.

The latitudinal gradient in niche breadth: concepts and evidence.

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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93101, USA.


We examine Robert MacArthur's hypothesis that niche breadth is positively associated with latitude (the latitude-niche breadth hypothesis). This idea has been influential and long standing, yet no studies have evaluated its generality or the validity of its assumptions. We review the theoretical arguments suggesting a positive relationship between niche breadth and latitude. We also use available evidence to evaluate the assumptions and predictions of MacArthur's latitude-niche breadth hypothesis. We find that neither the assumptions nor the predictions of the hypothesis are supported by data. We propose an alternative hypothesis linking latitude with niche breadth. Unlike previous ideas, our conceptual framework does not require equilibrial assumptions and is based on recently uncovered patterns of species interactions.

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