Influence of body size on coexistence of bird species

E. Leyequien Abarca, W.F. de Boer, A.M. Cleef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Theory suggests that body size is an important factor in determining interspecific competition and, ultimately, in structuring ecological communities. However, there is a lack of pragmatic studies linking body size and interspecific competition to patterns in ecological communities. The objective of the present study was to determine the effect of body size (mass) on competitive interactions between bird pairs and to investigate the influence of food guilds. Point-counts were carried out in nine sites every month from November 2002 to November 2003 in the Cuetzalan Region, Mexico, and we used presence/absence and abundance data for the analyses. To calculate the strength of competition we used the Angle Frequency Method to extract form factors from 20 pairwise interactions. A prototype competition interaction and random pairs were also constructed. We used clustering techniques (PCA) to calculate the dissimilarity scores (distances, D) of each of the pairwise interactions to the prototype competition and random pairs and one-way ANOVA to test for differences between the means of the random and competitive pairs. The ratio in body mass (lnBM) for each of the interacting pairs was calculated, and the association between the lnBM ratio and the strength of competition (D) was tested using a Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient. To test for the influence of foraging guilds we used a univariate general linear model. Our results demonstrate a significant negative relationship between bird body mass ratio and competition strength ¿ i.e. competition strength increased when the body masses of the birds became more similar. We did not find a significant influence of foraging guild on the relationship between body mass ratio and competition strength. On the basis of these results, we suggest that high variation in body sizes amongst sympatric species promotes coexistence in communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-741
JournalEcological Research
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • interspecific competition
  • asymmetric competition
  • character displacement
  • community structure
  • field experiments
  • time-series
  • predation
  • assemblages
  • ecosystems
  • evolution

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