Studies that have explored the origins of patterns of community structure from a phylogenetic perspective have generally found either convergence (similarity) in community structure between regions through adaptive evolution or lack of convergence (dissimilarity) due to phylogenetic conservatism in the divergent ecological characteristics of lineages inhabiting different regions. We used a phylogenetic approach to document a third pattern in the structure of emydid turtle communities. Emydid communities in southeastern North America tend to have a higher proportion of aquatic species than those in the northeast. This pattern reflects phylogenetic conservatism in the ecology and biogeography of two basal emydid clades, limiting convergence in community structure between these regions. However, differences in community structure between northeastern and southeastern North America have also been homogenized considerably by the dispersal of species with phylogenetically conserved ecological characteristics between regions. This pattern of ecologically conservative dispersal may be important in many continental and oceanic systems.
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