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Methodological and conceptual issues in the search for a relationship between animal body-size distributions and benthic habitat architecture


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Robson, BJ, Barmuta, LA and Fairweather, PG 2005 , 'Methodological and conceptual issues in the search for a relationship between animal body-size distributions and benthic habitat architecture' , Marine and Freshwater Research, vol. 56, no. 1 , pp. 1-11 , doi: 10.1071/MF04210.

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Benthic ecologists have studied the distribution of animal body sizes because it is a form of 'taxon-free' classification that may be a useful metric for describing variation within and between ecological communities. In particular, the idea that the allometry of physiological and life-history traits may control species composition and relative abundances implies a functional link between body-size distributions and communities. The physical structure of aquatic habitats has often been cited as the mechanism by which habitat may determine body-size distributions in communities. However, further progress is hindered by a lack of theoretical clarity regarding the mechanisms that connect body size to the characteristics of ecological communities, leading to methods that may obscure interesting trends in body-size data. This review examines the methodological and conceptual issues hindering progress in the search for a relationship between animal body size and habitat architecture and suggests ways to resolve these issues. Problems are identified with current methods for the measurement of animal body size, the data and measures used to quantify body-size distributions and the methods used to identify patterns therein. Fundamentally, renewed emphasis on the mechanisms by which animal body sizes are influenced by habitat architecture is required to refine methodology and synthesise results from pattern-seeking and mechanistic studies.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Robson, BJ and Barmuta, LA and Fairweather, PG
Keywords: body-size spectra experimental design habitat complexity habitat structure macroecology critique
Journal or Publication Title: Marine and Freshwater Research
ISSN: 1323-1650
DOI / ID Number: 10.1071/MF04210
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