(University of Missouri-St. Louis, USA)
Born and raised in California, Bob Ricklefs was an undergraduate of Stanford University and received his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. After a year of postdoctoral work at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and many years on the Biology faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, he moved in 1995 to the University of Missouri in St. Louis, where he is currently Curators' Professor of Biology. Ricklefs's research interests have ranged from avian life histories to island biogeography, the origin and maintenance of large-scale patterns of species richness, and the diversity and distribution of the malaria parasites of birds. He has authored several textbooks in ecology and is an enthusiastic student of natural history.
The Historical Assembly of Ecological Communities
Robert E. Ricklefs Department of Biology, University of Missouri-St. Louis
Local floras and faunas reflect large-scale evolutionary processes that produce the regional biota through evolutionary diversification and adaptive radiation, and ecological processes that sort the regional species pool into local assemblages. To understand patterns of diversity, it is first important to recognize that species populations are the primary unit of community ecology and biogeography. Thus, regional diversity depends on how regional properties influence species formation and extinction, and local diversity manifests factors that determine the distribution and abundance of populations within a region. Fossil records suggest that the diversity of major groups has been relatively stable, relative to species turnover, during the Tertiary, although it has been difficult to reconcile high extinction rates with analyses of diversification based on molecular phylogenetic reconstruction. Similarly, analyses of the distribution and abundance of species in a phylogenetic context exhibit inconsistencies with both niche-based and random assembly of communities. One promising approach to resolving conflicting evidence invokes coevolutionary relationships between host species and their specialized pathogens. These relationships are receiving increasing attention from ecologists and evolutionary biologists interested in patterns of biodiversity.