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Land mammals form eight functionally and climatically distinct faunas in North America but only one in Europe

Lintulaakso, Kari, Polly, P. David, Eronen, Jussi T.
Journal of biogeography 2019 v.46 no.1 pp. 185-195
atmospheric precipitation, climate, cluster analysis, diet, fauna, fossils, locomotion, mammals, mixing, paleoecology, temperature, Europe, North America
AIM: We use cluster analysis to delimit climatically and functionally distinct mammalian faunal clusters. These entities form regional species pools and are relevant to community assembly processes. Similar clusters can be differentiated in the fossil record, offering the potential for use as palaeoenvironmental proxies. LOCATION: North America within W178°, W14°, N83°, N7° and Europe within W32°, E35°, N80°, N35°. MAJOR TAXA STUDIED: 575 and 124 land mammal species from North America and Europe. METHODS: K‐means clustering was used to subdivide North America and Europe into distinct faunas ranging in number from 3 (largest scale) to 21 (smallest scale). Each set of faunas was tested for significant differences in climate (mean annual precipitation, mean annual temperature) and functional traits (body mass, locomotion and diet). RESULTS: In North America, climatic differentiation exists at the scale where mammals are divided into 11 or fewer distinct faunas and, in Europe, at the scale where there are five or fewer faunas. Functional trait differentiation in body mass occurs at a larger spatial scale in North America (8 distinct faunas), but locomotor differentiation is present at all spatial scales, and dietary differentiation is not present at any scale. No significant differentiation in any functional trait at any scale was found in Europe. MAIN CONCLUSIONS: Faunal clusters can be constructed at any spatial scale, but clusters are climatically and functionally meaningful only at larger scales. Climatic (and environmental) differences and their associated functional trait specialisations are likely to be barriers to large‐scale mixing. We argue, therefore, that functionally and climatically distinct faunal clusters are the entities that form regional species pools for community assembly processes. In North America, there are eight such mammal pools, but only one in Europe. Since the functional traits in our study are observable in the fossil record, functional trait analysis can potentially be used to diagnose climatically distinct regions in the past.