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Am Nat. 2005 Jun;165(6):E168-85. Epub 2005 Mar 30.

A quantitative model for assessing community dynamics of pleistocene mammals.

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Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


Previous studies have suggested that species responded individualistically to the climate change of the last glaciation, expanding and contracting their ranges independently. Consequently, many researchers have concluded that community composition is plastic over time. Here I quantitatively assess changes in community composition over broad timescales and assess the effect of range shifts on community composition. Data on Pleistocene mammal assemblages from the FAUNMAP database were divided into four time periods (preglacial, full glacial, postglacial, and modern). Simulation analyses were designed to determine whether the degree of change in community composition is consistent with independent range shifts, given the distribution of range shifts observed. Results indicate that many of the communities examined in the United States were more similar through time than expected if individual range shifts were completely independent. However, in each time transition examined, there were areas of nonanalogue communities. I conducted sensitivity analyses to explore how the results were affected by the assumptions of the null model. Conclusions about changes in mammalian distributions and community composition are robust with respect to the assumptions of the model. Thus, whether because of biotic interactions or because of common environmental requirements, community structure through time is more complex than previously thought.

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