Bottom-up control and co-occurrence in complex communities: honeydew and nectar determine a rainforest ant mosaic

Blüthgen, Nico, Stork, Nigel E., and Fiedler, Konrad (2004) Bottom-up control and co-occurrence in complex communities: honeydew and nectar determine a rainforest ant mosaic. Oikos, 106 (2). pp. 344-358.

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Complex distribution patterns of species-rich insect communities in tropical rainforests have been intensively studied, and yet we know very little about processes that generate these patterns. We provide evidence for the key role of homopteran honeydew and plant nectar in structuring ant communities in an Australian tropical rainforest canopy and understorey. We also test the ant visitation of these resources against predictions derived from the 'ant-mosaic' hypothesis. Two ant species were highly dominant in terms of territorial behaviour and abundance: Oecophyllasmaragdina and Anonychomyrma gilberti. Both dominant ant species monopolised large aggregations of honeydew-producing homopterans. Attended homopteran species were highly segregated between these two ant species. For the use of extrafloral and floral nectar (involving 43 ant species on 48 plant species), partitioning of ant species among plant species and between canopy and understorey was also significant, but less pronounced. In contrast to trophobioses, simultaneous co-occurrence of different nectar foraging ant species on the same plant individuals was frequent (23% of all surveys). While both dominant ant species were mutually exclusive on honeydew and nectar sources, co-occurrence with non-dominant ant species on nectaries was common. The proportion of visits with co-occurrences was low for dominant ants and high for many sub-ordinate species. These findings support the ant mosaic theory. The differential role of honeydew (as a specialised resource for dominant ants) and nectar (as an opportunistic resource for all ants including the co-occurring non-dominant species) provides a plausible structuring mechanism for the Australian canopy ant community studied.

Item ID: 6990
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1600-0706
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2010 23:38
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0699 Other Biological Sciences > 069999 Biological Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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