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Reef communities show predictable undulations in linear abundance size spectra from copepods to sharks
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  • Freddie Heather,
  • Rick Stuart-Smith,
  • Julia Blanchard,
  • Kate Fraser,
  • Graham Edgar
Freddie Heather
University of Tasmania Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
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Rick Stuart-Smith
University of Tasmania Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
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Julia Blanchard
University of Tasmania Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
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Kate Fraser
University of Tasmania Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
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Graham Edgar
University of Tasmania Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
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Abstract

Amongst the more widely accepted general hypotheses in ecology is that community relationships between abundance and body size follow a log-linear size spectrum, from the smallest consumers to the largest predators (i.e., “bacteria to whales”). Nevertheless, most studies only investigate small subsets of this spectrum, due to extreme size classes that deviate from these linear expectations. In this study, we fit size spectra to field data from 45 rocky and coral reef sites along a 28° latitudinal gradient, and spanning 11 orders of magnitude in body size, from 3 μg to 150 kg. We found that 97% of the variation in abundance along this ‘extended’ size gradient was described by a single linear function across all sites. Moreover, consistent ‘wobbles’ were also observed, with subtle peaks and troughs in abundance along the spectrum, that related strongly to sea temperature and local site conditions.