Body mass as a supertrait linked to abundance and behavioral dominance in hummingbirds: A phylogenetic approach

Rafael Bribiesca, Leonel Herrera-Alsina, Eduardo Ruiz-Sanchez, Luis A. Sánchez-González, Jorge E. Schondube (Corresponding Author)

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10 Citations (Scopus)
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Body mass has been considered one of the most critical organismal traits, and its role in many ecological processes has been widely studied. In hummingbirds, body mass has been linked to ecological features such as foraging performance, metabolic rates, and cost of flying, among others. We used an evolutionary approach to test whether body mass is a good predictor of two of the main ecological features of hummingbirds: their abundances and behavioral dominance. To determine whether a species was abundant and/or behaviorally dominant, we used information from the literature on 249 hummingbird species. For abundance, we classified a species as “plentiful” if it was described as the most abundant species in at least part of its geographic distribution, while we deemed a species to be “behaviorally dominant” when it was described as pugnacious (notably aggressive). We found that plentiful hummingbird species had intermediate body masses and were more phylogenetically related to each other than expected by chance. Conversely, behaviorally dominant species tended to have larger body masses and showed a random pattern of distribution in the phylogeny. Additionally, small‐bodied hummingbird species were not considered plentiful by our definition and did not exhibit behavioral dominance. These results suggest a link between body mass, abundance, and behavioral dominance in hummingbirds. Our findings indicate the existence of a body mass range associated with the capacity of hummingbird species to be plentiful, behaviorally dominant, or to show both traits. The mechanisms behind these relationships are still unclear; however, our results provide support for the hypothesis that body mass is a supertrait that explains abundance and behavioral dominance in hummingbirds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1623-1637
Number of pages15
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number4
Early online date7 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information
PAPIIT‐UNAM. Grant Number: IN212216
Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología. Grant Number: 239884
CONACYT. Grant Number: 239884
National Autonomous University of Mexico


  • ancestral states
  • body mass
  • morphological traits
  • phylogenetic signal


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