The debate on the role of species differences in shaping biodiversity patterns, with its two extremes of pure niche theory and neutral theory, is still ongoing. It has been demonstrated that a slight difference in competitive ability of species severely affects the predictions of the neutral model. At the same time, neutral patterns seem to be ubiquitous. Here, we model both negative density dependence (NDD) and competitive asymmetry (CA) simultaneously. Our simulation results show that an appropriate intensity of NDD can offset the negative effect of CA (modeled as fecundity difference) on species coexistence and produce a neutral-like species abundance distribution. Therefore, our model provides a plausible mechanistic explanation of neutral-like patterns, but contrary to the neutral model, a species' relative abundance is positively related to its competitive ability in our model. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.