Community structure of desert small mammals: comparisons across four continents

Douglas A. Kelt, James H. Brown, Edward J. Heske, Pablo A. Marquet, Stephen R. Morton, Julian R.W. Reid, Kontantín A. Rogovin, Georgy Shenbrot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


Presence/absence data for the small-mammal species at sites in seven deserts were analyzed for evidence of similarity in community structure. The deserts studied were located in North and South America (268 and 118 sites, respectively), Australia (245 sites), Israel (54 sites), and greater Eurasia (Thar, 15 sites; Turkestan, 36 sites; Gobi, 98 sites). Patterns observed in all deserts included: (1) low a diversity (2-4 species per site); (2) high β diversity (species turnover between sites); and (3) local coexistence of 20-30% of the species in the regional pool. Additionally, the number of species with which a species co-occurred increased with the number of sites at which that species occurred. Although these results suggested that some features of community structure were similar across deserts, other aspects, especially trophic structure, differed widely. Deserts in the northern hemisphere possessed more granivores, and the Turkestan Desert more folivores, than other deserts. Carnivorous small mammals were most strongly represented in Australia, and omnivores in South America, Australia, and the Thar. The structure of desert small-mammal communities is strongly influenced by historical factors; different taxonomic groups with distinctive trophic adaptations proliferate in different desert regions where they are subject to some common structuring processes of community assembly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)746-761
Number of pages16
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1996


  • Asian deserts
  • Australian deserts
  • Community structure
  • Desert small mammals
  • Gobi desert
  • Negev desert
  • North american deserts
  • South american deserts
  • Thar desert
  • Trophic structure
  • Turkestan desert

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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