Trophic phylogenetics: evolutionary influences on body size, feeding, and species associations in grassland arthropods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Contemporary animal-plant interactions such as herbivory are widely understood to be shaped by evolutionary history. Yet questions remain about the role of plant phylogenetic diversity in generating and maintaining herbivore diversity, and whether evolutionary relatedness of producers might predict the composition of consumer communities. We tested for evidence of evolutionary associations among arthropods and the plants on which they were found, using phylogenetic analysis of naturally occurring arthropod assemblages sampled from a plant-diversity manipulation experiment. Considering phylogenetic relationships among more than 900 arthropod consumer taxa and 29 plant species in the experiment, we addressed several interrelated questions. First, our results support the hypothesis that arthropod functional traits such as body size and trophic role are phylogenetically conserved in community ecological samples. Second, herbivores tended to cooccur with closer phylogenetic relatives than would be expected at random, whereas predators and parasitoids did not show phylogenetic association patterns. Consumer specialization, as measured by association through time with monocultures of particular host plant species, showed significant phylogenetic signal, although the. strength of this association varied among plant species. Polycultures of phylogenetically dissimilar plant species supported more phylogenetically dissimilar consumer communities than did phylogenetically similar polycultures. Finally, we separated the effects of plant species richness and relatedness in predicting the phylogenetic distribution of the arthropod assemblages in this experiment. The phylogenetic diversity of plant communities predicted the phylogenetic diversity of herbivore communities even after accounting for plant species richness. The phylogenetic diversity of secondary consumers differed by guild, with predator phylogenetic diversity responding to herbivore relatedness, while parasitoid phylogenetic diversity was driven by plant relatedness. Evolutionary associations between plants and their consumers are apparent in plots only meters apart in a single field, indicating a strong role for host-plant phylogenetic diversity in sustaining landscape consumer biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)998-1009
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by the Ecological Society of America.


  • Arthropod phylogeny
  • Cedar Creek LTER Minnesota USA
  • Community phylogenetics
  • Diversity
  • Grassland
  • Herbivores
  • Parasitoids
  • Predators


Dive into the research topics of 'Trophic phylogenetics: evolutionary influences on body size, feeding, and species associations in grassland arthropods'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this