To determine the spatial dynamics of Neotropical lotic insect species, specimens were collected from 41 streams on the eastern and western flanks of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador. We examined the manner in which taxonomic richness and composition differed with elevation, latitude, and versant. Statistical analyses were limited to 5 families (Ephemeroptera: Baetidae, Leptohyphidae, Oligoneuriidae; Heteroptera: Naucoridae; Coleoptera: Elmidae), comprising 32 genera and 85 species, for which identifications or morphospecies assignments were reliable. Assessment of taxonomic diversity was based on the richness of genera and species at each site. In addition, each site was characterized by species richness within each of 4 families with more than 10 species. The effects of versant and transect on composition and structure were family-specific. Mean site differences between versants in elmid richness at generic and specific levels depended on transect. Only baetid richness was affected by versant and transect in a consistent manner. Variation among sites in composition based on all genera and species was captured using multidimensional scaling (MDS). Subsequent MANOVAs based on scores from MDS axes revealed that differences between versants were much stronger in the southern transect, although transects differed from each other at specific and generic levels. A Jaccard's similarity matrix was computed for each family to reflect the spatial organization of taxonomic composition. Mesogeographic patterns of species composition for each of the four families were correlated (Mantel analysis) at both the regional level and at the level of the entire study area. At the regional level, the only pair of families to exhibit correlated patterns of species composition was elmids and naucorids in the southwestern region. The pattern of species composition for each family was correlated with the patterns for one or more other families at the level of the entire study area. Thus, spatial dynamics of species composition was similar for the families examined, suggesting that the Andes exert a consistent influence on species distributions within families, regardless of ordinal affiliation. At a local scale, however, the way in which taxonomic composition changed with latitude and versant was family-specific. Mayflies, the most vagile of the taxa studied, had the highest percentage of species overlap between versants. Of three genera of Naucoridae collected, species of Ambrysus, of probable Mexican origin, were found only on the eastern versant, corroborating other evidence that the genus is recent in South America. Moreover, dispersion by Ambrysus across the Andes Mountains may not have occurred, as it has for Cryphocricos and Limnocoris, which are of probable South American origin.
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Vol. 35 • No. 2