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Multidimensional primate niche space sheds light on interspecific competition in primate evolution

  • Van Holstein, Laura
  • McKay, Hannah
  • Koops, Kathelijne
  • Pimiento, Catalina
Publication Date
May 24, 2024
Apollo - University of Cambridge Repository
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Characterising how the totality of primate diversity is distributed across the order, and how it evolved, is challenging because diversity in individual traits often show opposing phylogenetic patterns. A species’ combination of traits can be conceptualised as its ‘niche’. Here, we describe and analyse seven-dimensional niche space, comprising 11 traits, for 191 primate species. Multifaceted diversity is distributed unequally among taxonomic groups. Cercopithecoidea and Hominidae occupy the largest areas of niche space, and are the most diverse families; platyrrhine families occupy small areas, and this space overlaps with strepsirrhines. The evolution of species’ locations in niche space is regulated by selection for adaptive optima in trait combinations. Given that niche similarity results in interspecific competition, we quantify two measures of species’ niche locations relative to others. We find that omnivores, frugivores, and species tolerating higher temperatures experience stronger interspecific competition. Hominidae occupation of niche space suggests competitive exclusion from niches by Cercopithecoidea; but extant great apes experience the lowest levels of interspecific competition. Callitrichids experience the highest levels of interspecific competition. Our results provide a standardised measure of primate niches that sheds light on the partitioning and evolution of primate diversity, and how this is driven by interspecific competition. / Junior Research Fellowship (Clare College) awarded to LVH

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