ECOLOGICAL AND STRUCTURAL CONSTRAINTS REVEALED BY SIMULATING THEORETICAL ECOSPACES
Here I create different theoretical ecospace frameworks with distinct structural designs and examine their inherent structural constraints. These frameworks differ in numbers of traits and character states, types of data (factorial, numerical, binary, ordered multistate), and ability to incorporate various design constraints (such as by weighing possible states based on their frequency in species pools). Analyses demonstrate that irregularities in the resulting ecospace can be caused either by structural (design) limitations inherent to the ecospace framework itself or by ecological/evolutionary (real) constraints inherent to nature. Monte Carlo simulation allows a simple method to distinguish these types of constraints. Such sensitivity analyses must be conducted prior to using these frameworks in formal statistical analyses. I then use a powerful ecospace framework to identify real ecological and evolutionary patterns in the ecospace of Late Ordovician (Type Cincinnatian) marine assemblages. The same concerns and recommendations offered here apply equally to studies of morphological disparity.