Competition matters: Determining the drivers of land snail community assembly among limestone karst areas in northern Vietnam

Parm Viktor von Oheimb, Katharina C.M. von Oheimb, Takahiro Hirano, Tu Van Do, Hao Van Luong, Jonathan Ablett, Sang Van Pham, Fred Naggs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The insular limestone karsts of northern Vietnam harbor a very rich biodiversity. Many taxa are strongly associated with these environments, and individual species communities can differ considerably among karst areas. The exact processes that have shaped the biotic composition of these habitats, however, remain largely unknown. In this study, the role of two major processes for the assembly of snail communities on limestone karsts was investigated, interspecific competition and filtering of taxa due to geographical factors. Communities of operculate land snails of the genus Cyclophorus were studied using the dry and fluid-preserved specimen collections of the Natural History Museum, London. Phylogenetic distances (based on a Bayesian analysis using DNA sequence data) and shell characters (based on 200 semilandmarks) were used as proxies for ecological similarity and were analyzed to reveal patterns of overdispersion (indicating competition) or clustering (indicating filtering) in observed communities compared to random communities. Among the seven studied karst areas, a total of 15 Cyclophorus lineages were found. Unique communities were present in each area. The analyses revealed phylogenetic overdispersion in six and morphological overdispersion in four of seven karst areas. The pattern of frequent phylogenetic overdispersion indicated that competition among lineages is the major process shaping the Cyclophorus communities studied. The Coastal Area, which was phylogenetically overdispersed, showed a clear morphological clustering, which could have been caused by similar ecological adaptations among taxa in this environment. Only the community in the Cuc Phuong Area showed a pattern of phylogenetic clustering, which was partly caused by an absence of a certain, phylogenetically very distinct group in this region. Filtering due to geographical factors could have been involved here. This study shows how museum collections can be used to examine community assembly and contributes to the understanding of the processes that have shaped karst communities in Vietnam.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4136-4149
Number of pages14
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr


  • Cyclophoridae
  • Cyclophorus
  • Southeast Asia
  • collection-based research
  • molecular phylogenetics
  • morphometrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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