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Department of Biological Sciences


Four different conceptual models of metacommunities have been proposed, termed “patch dynamics,” “species sorting,” “mass effect,” and “neutral.” These models simplify thinking about metacommunities and improve our understanding of the role of spatial dynamics both in structuring communities and in determining local and regional diversity. We tested whether mosquito communities inhabiting water-filled tree holes in southeastern Florida, USA, displayed any of the characteristics and dynamics predicted by the four models. The densities of the five most common species in 3–8 tree holes were monitored every two weeks during 1978–2003. We tested relationships between habitat variables and species densities, spatial synchrony, the presence of life history trade-offs, and species turnover. Dynamics showed strong elements of species sorting, but with considerable turnover, as predicted by the patch dynamics model. Consistent with patch dynamics, there was substantial asynchrony in dynamics for different tree holes, substantial species turnover in space and time, and an occupancy/colonization trade-off. Substantial correlations of density and occupancy with tree hole volume were consistent with the species-sorting model, but unlike this model, species did not have permanent refuges. No evidence of mass effects was found, and correlations between habitat variables and dynamics were inconsistent with neutral models. Our results did not match a single model and therefore caution against overly simplifying metacommunity dynamics by using one dynamical characteristic to select a particular metacommunity perspective.

Original Citation

Ellis AM, Lounibos LP, Holyoak M. Evaluating the long-term metacommunity dynamics of tree hole mosquitoes. Ecology. 2006 Oct;87(10):2582-90. doi: 10.1890/0012-9658(2006)87[2582:etlmdo];2. PMID: 17089666; PMCID: PMC1828635.