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The signature of competition in ecomorphological traits across the avian radiation: Competition and trait macroevolution

Chira, A. M.; Cooney, C. R.; Bright, J. A.; Capp, E. J.R.; Hughes, E. C.; Moody, C. J.A.; Nouri, L. O.; Varley, Z. K.; Thomas, G. H.


A. M. Chira

C. R. Cooney

E. J.R. Capp

E. C. Hughes

C. J.A. Moody

L. O. Nouri

Z. K. Varley

G. H. Thomas


© 2020 The Authors. Competition for shared resources represents a fundamental driver of biological diversity. However, the tempo and mode of phenotypic evolution in deep-time has been predominantly investigated using trait evolutionary models which assume that lineages evolve independently from each other. Consequently, the role of species interactions in driving macroevolutionary dynamics remains poorly understood. Here, we quantify the prevalence for signatures of competition between related species in the evolution of ecomorphological traits across the bird radiation. We find that mechanistic trait models accounting for the effect of species interactions on phenotypic divergence provide the best fit for the data on at least one trait axis in 27 out of 59 clades ranging between 21 and 195 species. Where it occurs, the signature of competition generally coincides with positive species diversity-dependence, driven by the accumulation of lineages with similar ecologies, and we find scarce evidence for trait-dependent or negative diversity-dependent phenotypic evolution. Overall, our results suggest that the footprint of interspecific competition is often eroded in long-term patterns of phenotypic diversification, and that other selection pressures may predominantly shape ecomorphological diversity among extant species at macroevolutionary scales.


Chira, A. M., Cooney, C. R., Bright, J. A., Capp, E. J., Hughes, E. C., Moody, C. J., …Thomas, G. H. (2020). The signature of competition in ecomorphological traits across the avian radiation: Competition and trait macroevolution. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 287(1938), Article 20201585.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 16, 2020
Online Publication Date Nov 11, 2020
Publication Date Nov 11, 2020
Deposit Date Oct 4, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Print ISSN 0962-8452
Electronic ISSN 1471-2954
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 287
Issue 1938
Article Number 20201585
Public URL


Published article (477 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© 2020 The Authors.<br /> Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

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