We present a method of comparing data on habitat use and availability that allows availability to differ among observations. This method is applicable when habitats change over time and when animals are unable to move throughout a predetermined study area between observations. We used maximum-likelihood techniques to derive an index that estimates the probability that each habitat type would be used if all were equally available. We also demonstrate how these indices can be used to compare relative use of available habitats, assign them ranks, and assess statistical differences between pairs of indices. The set of these indices for all habitats can be compared between groups of animals that represent different seasons, sex or age classes, or experimental treatments. This method allows quantitative comparisons among types and is not affected by arbitrary decisions about which habitats to include in the study. We provide an example by comparing the availability of four categories of sea ice concentration to their use by adult female polar bears (Ursus maritimus), whose movements were monitored by satellite radio tracking in the Bering and Chukchi Seas during 1990. Use of ice categories by bears was nonrandom, and the pattern of use differed between spring and late summer seasons.
Using published distributions of 65 species from the British Isles and northern Europe, we show that ant assemblages change with latitude in two ways. First, as commonly found for many types of organisms, the number of ant species decreased significantly with increasing latitude. For Ireland and Great Britain, species richness also increased significantly with region area. Second, although rarely demonstrated for ectotherms, the body size of ant species, as measured by worker length, increased significantly with increasing latitude. We found that this body-size pattern existed in the subfamily Formicinae and, to a lesser extent, in the Myrmicinae, which together comprised 95% of the ant species in our study area. There was a trend for formicines to increase in size with latitude faster than myrmicines. We also show that the pattern of increasing body size was due primarily to the ranges of ant species shifting to higher latitudes as their body sizes increased, with larger formicines becoming less represented at southerly latitudes and larger myrmicines becoming more represented at northerly latitudes. We conclude by discussing five potential mechanisms for generating the observed body-size patterns: the heat-conservation hypothesis, two hypotheses concerning phylogenetic history, the migration-ability hypothesis, and the starvation-resistance hypothesis.
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