Relatedness and the composition of communities over time: Evaluating phylogenetic community structure in the late Cenozoic record of bivalves

Lucy M. Chang, Phillip L. Skipwith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Understanding the mechanisms that prevent or promote the coexistence of taxa at local scales is critical to understanding how biodiversity is maintained. Competitive exclusion and environmental filtering are two processes thought to limit which taxa become established in a community. However, determining the relative importance of the two processes is a complex task, especially when the critical initial stages of colonization cannot be directly observed. Here, we explore the use of phylogenetic community structure for identifying filtering mechanisms in a fossil community. We integrated a time-calibrated molecular phylogeny of bivalve genera with a spatial dataset of late Cenozoic bivalves from the Pacific coast of North America to characterize how the community that was present in the semirestricted San Joaquin Basin (SJB) embayment of present-day California was phylogenetically structured. We employed phylogenetic distance-based metrics across six time bins spanning 27-2.5 Ma and found no evidence of significant clustering or evenness in the SJB community when compared with communities randomly assembled from the regional source pool. Additionally, we found that new colonizers into the SJB were not significantly more or less closely related to native taxa than expected by chance. These findings suggest that neither competitive exclusion nor environmental filtering were overwhelmingly influential factors shaping the composition of the SJB community over time. We further discuss interpretations of these patterns in light of current understandings in community phylogenetics and reiterate the critical role historical perspectives play in how community assembly rules are assessed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-313
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Paleontological Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Paleontology


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