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Predicting resource partitioning and community organization of filter-feeding dabbling ducks from functional morphology

Predicting resource partitioning and community organization of filter-feeding dabbling ducks from functional morphology

American Naturalist 169(3): 334-343

Resource partitioning due to interspecific differences in phenotype is a key component of ecological and evolutionary theory, but the relationship between morphology and resource use is poorly understood for most species. In addition, ecologists often assume that morphological differences cause distinct resource preferences between species. Using mechanistic models that combine bill morphology and kinetics, I show that filter-feeding dabbling ducks face a morphology-mediated trade-off between particle size selection and water filtration rate. When detritus is absent, mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and northern shovelers ( Anas clypeata) should maximize their intake rates and exhibit high overlap in prey size. When prey and detritus co-occur, species should separate prey from detritus by size, leading to reduced intake rates and size-based prey partitioning. Models for both species correctly predicted variation in water filtration rates, particle retention probabilities, and prey ingestion rates due to variation in prey size, the presence of detritus, and experimental modification of bill morphology. Because species have both shared and distinct resource preferences, duck communities should exhibit strong density-dependent niche shifts (i.e., centrifugal dynamics), a finding that contradicts previous studies that assumed that ducks have distinct resource preferences only. Centrifugal dynamics may be widespread among filter feeders because of the common cost of separating prey from detritus.

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Accession: 013004683

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 17230398

DOI: 10.1086/510924

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