Small organisms (less than 1 millimeter in length) tend to have a cosmopolitan distribution. This is a consequence of huge absolute population sizes rather than any inherent properties of particular taxonomic groups. At the local scale, the diversity of small species exceeds that of larger organisms, but at the global scale this relation is reversed, because endemism is largely responsible for the species richness of large organisms. For small organisms, the relationship between species and area is flat, and a latitudinal diversity gradient is absent or weak. These patterns are explained by some of the assumptions underlying the unified neutral community model.
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Vol. 54 • No. 8