The study results showed that all species survived until the end of the experiment when alone in a microcosm. However, in more than half of the experiments in which protists were paired together, one of the two species dominated, leading to the extinction of the other species.
The researchers found that the frequency and speed of this extinction process -- called competitive exclusion -- was significantly greater between species that were more closely related. In addition, in microcosms where both competitors coexisted for the duration of the experiment, the abundance of the inferior competitor was reduced more as the phylogenetic relatedness between the two competitors increased.
The study also showed that the frequency of competitive exclusion was significantly greater between species that had similar mouth sizes.
"We documented the mouth size of each species because there is some evidence that this morphological trait affects the selectivity and uptake rate of prey particles, and we thought that similarity in mouth size might translate into the exploitation of similar bacterial resources and result in competitive exclusion," said Jiang.
While they found that phylogenetic relatedness predicted the likelihood of coexistence better than mouth size, the results suggest that other traits involved in resource uptake may also be important predictors of the outcomes of competitive interactions in ecological communities.
"This study is one step toward a better understanding of how phylogenetic relatedness influences species interactions," said Jiang. "We hope our experimental validation of the phylogenetic limiting similarity hypothesis in microorganisms will encourage other ecologists to conduct additional studies w
|Contact: Abby Robinson|
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News