Insects on plants

Explaining the paradox of low diversity within specialist herbivore guilds

Vojtech Novotny, Scott E. Miller, Jan Hrcek, Leontine Baje, Yves Basset, Owen T. Lewis, Alan J.A. Stewart, George D Weiblen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Classical niche theory explains the coexistence of species through their exploitation of different resources. Assemblages of herbivores coexisting on a particular plant species are thus expected to be dominated by species from host-specific guilds with narrow, coexistence- facilitating niches rather than by species from generalist guilds. Exactly the opposite pattern is observed for folivores feeding on trees in New Guinea. The least specialized mobile chewers were the most species rich, followed by the moderately specialized semiconcealed and exposed chewers. The highly specialized miners and mesophyll suckers were the least species-rich guilds. The Poisson distribution of herbivore species richness among plant species in specialized guilds and the absence of a negative correlation between species richness in different guilds on the same plant species suggest that these guilds are not saturated with species. We show that herbivore assemblages are enriched with generalists because these are more completely sampled from regional species pools. Herbivore diversity increases as a power function of plant diversity, and the rate of increase is inversely related to host specificity. The relative species diversity among guilds is thus scale dependent, as the importance of specialized guilds increases with plant diversity. Specialized insect guilds may therefore comprise a larger component of overall diversity in the tropics (where they are also poorly known taxonomically) than in the temperate zone, which has lower plant diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-362
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Volume179
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012

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guild
herbivore
herbivores
insect
insects
species diversity
niches
generalist
coexistence
niche
New Guinea
adventitious shoots
host specificity
species richness
temperate zones
mesophyll
tropics
species pool
resource

Keywords

  • Community saturation
  • Host specialization
  • New Guinea
  • Niche theory
  • Rainforest
  • Species pool

Cite this

Insects on plants : Explaining the paradox of low diversity within specialist herbivore guilds. / Novotny, Vojtech; Miller, Scott E.; Hrcek, Jan; Baje, Leontine; Basset, Yves; Lewis, Owen T.; Stewart, Alan J.A.; Weiblen, George D.

In: American Naturalist, Vol. 179, No. 3, 01.03.2012, p. 351-362.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Novotny, V, Miller, SE, Hrcek, J, Baje, L, Basset, Y, Lewis, OT, Stewart, AJA & Weiblen, GD 2012, 'Insects on plants: Explaining the paradox of low diversity within specialist herbivore guilds', American Naturalist, vol. 179, no. 3, pp. 351-362. https://doi.org/10.1086/664082
Novotny V, Miller SE, Hrcek J, Baje L, Basset Y, Lewis OT et al. Insects on plants: Explaining the paradox of low diversity within specialist herbivore guilds. American Naturalist. 2012 Mar 1;179(3):351-362. https://doi.org/10.1086/664082
Novotny, Vojtech ; Miller, Scott E. ; Hrcek, Jan ; Baje, Leontine ; Basset, Yves ; Lewis, Owen T. ; Stewart, Alan J.A. ; Weiblen, George D. / Insects on plants : Explaining the paradox of low diversity within specialist herbivore guilds. In: American Naturalist. 2012 ; Vol. 179, No. 3. pp. 351-362.
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