Meta-networks for the study of biogeographical traits in ecological networks: the Mexican hummingbird-plant assemblage

Recent studies on ecological networks have quantified the contribution of ecological, historical, and evolutionary factors on the structure of local communities of interacting species. However, the influence of speciesí biogeographical traits, such as migratory habits or phylogeographical history, on ecological networks is poorly understood. Meta-networks, i.e., networks that cover large spatial extensions and include species not co-occurring locally, enable us to investigate mech-anisms that operate at larger spatial scales such as migratory patterns or phylogeographical distributions, as well as indirect relationships among species through shared partners. Using a meta-network of hummingbird-plant interaction across Mexico, we illustrate the usefulness of this approach by investigating (1) how biogeographical and morphological factors associate with observed interactions and (2) how species-specific biogeographical characteristics associate with speciesí network roles. Our results show that all studied hummingbird and plant species in the meta-network were interrelated, either directly or through shared partners. The meta-network was structured into modules, resulting from hummingbirds and plants interacting preferentially with subsets of species, which differed in biogeographical, and, to a lesser extent, morphological traits. Furthermore, migrants and hummingbirds from Nearctic, Transition, and widespread regions had a higher topological importance in the meta-network. Our study illustrates how meta-networks may contribute to our current knowledge on speciesí biogeographical traits and biotic interactions, providing a perspective complementary to local-scale networks.