Moving beyond the guild concept: Developing a practical functional trait framework for terrestrial beetles

Nicholas M. Fountain-Jones, Susan C. Baker, Gregory J. Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


1. New logical and analytical frameworks for studying functional traits have led to major advances in plant and freshwater ecology at local and global scales. The ecological and taxonomic diversity of terrestrial adult beetles (Coleoptera) means that functional trait approaches should have considerable power to illuminate the function not only of these animals but also of the ecosystems in which they occur. 2. Even though the functional trait concept is not new in ecology, it is still plagued with inconsistencies in methodology and terminology. Plant-based studies have shown that an integrated and relatively consistent functional trait approach facilitates comparisons between studies, and allows the full utility and predictive capacity of trait-based approaches to be realised. 3. This review outlines a logical framework for adult beetle functional trait studies using uniform terminology and methodology similar to those used by plant ecologists. Beetle life-history and ecomorphological trait studies are synthesised and it is shown that a combination of both is analogous to the functional trait approach. A general functional trait list for beetles and potential functional links is outlined, as are potential analysis approaches. A consistent functional trait approach, coupled with advances in molecular techniques, has the capability to provide deeper insights into beetle community assembly and how beetles impact ecosystems and will enable worldwide comparisons and predictions to be made.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 The Royal Entomological Society.


  • Coleoptera
  • Community ecology
  • Ecomorphological traits
  • Functional diversity
  • Phylogenetic approaches
  • Trait analysis


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