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Metabolic asymmetry and the global diversity of marine predators

24 / 01 / 2019, Science Now

Species richness of marine mammals and birds is highest in cold, temperate seas—a conspicuous exception to the general latitudinal gradient of decreasing diversity from the tropics to the poles. We compiled a comprehensive dataset for 998 species of sharks, fish, reptiles, mammals, and birds to identify and quantify inverse latitudinal gradients in diversity, and derived a theory to explain these patterns. We found that richness, phylogenetic diversity, and abundance of marine predators diverge systematically with thermoregulatory strategy and water temperature, reflecting metabolic differences between endotherms and ectotherms that drive trophic and competitive interactions. Spatial patterns of foraging support theoretical predictions, with total prey consumption by mammals increasing by a factor of 80 from the equator to the poles after controlling for productivity.

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