Implementation of biotic interactions in niche analyses unravels the
patterns underneath community composition in clownfishes
Biotic interactions are key to understanding the ecology of species and
communities. As such, integrating biotic interactions into ecological
niche modelling methods has been a central topic of research for the
last decade. Yet, the role of biotic interactions remains overlooked.
Mutualistic systems constitute perfect study cases for analysing the
effect of biotic interactions on species niches and communities’
composition. Using the clownfish-sea anemone interaction, we integrate
mutualistic interactions into a niche quantification framework to
analyse the effect of biotic interactions in the estimation of species
niches; and competition patterns among clownfish communities. Our
results show that ignoring biotic interactions can strongly affect
species ecological niche estimations. More importantly, sea anemones
seem to mediate competition among clownfishes, structure communities and
allow coexistence in competitive environments. These findings strongly
support the importance of biotic interactions in shaping communities.
Future studies could use the proposed analytical framework, which could
also serve multiple conservation purposes.