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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Host specificity and interaction networks of insects feeding on seeds and fruits in tropical rainforests

Basset, Yves; Jorge, Leonardo R.; Butterill, Philip T.; Lamarre, Greg P. A.; Dahl, Chris; Ctvrtecka, Richard; Gripenberg, Sofia; Lewis, Owen T.; Barrios, Hector; Brown, John W.; Bunyavejchewin, Sarayudh; Butcher, Buntika A.; Cognato, Anthony, I; Davies, Stuart J.; Kaman, Ondrej; Klimes, Petr; Knizek, Milos; Miller, Scott E.; Morse, Geoffrey E.; Novotny, Vojtech;
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In the tropics, antagonistic seed predation networks may have different properties than mutualistic pollination and seed dispersal networks, but the former have been considerably less studied. We tested whether the structure of antagonistic tripartite networks composed of host plants, insects developing within seeds and fruits, and their insect parasitoids could be predicted from plant phylogenetic distance and plant traits. We considered subsets of the networks ('subnetworks') at three rainforest locations (Panama, Thailand, Papua New Guinea), based on insect families, plant families or plant functional groups. We recorded 3197 interactions and observed a low percentage of realized interactions, especially in Panama, where insect host specificity was higher than in Thailand or New Guinea. Several factors may explain this, including insect faunal composition, incidence of dry fruits, high fruit production and high occurrence of Fabaceae at the Panamanian site. Host specificity was greater among seed-eaters than pulp-eaters and for insects feeding on dry fruits as opposed to insects feeding on fleshy fruits. Plant species richness within plant families did not influence insect host specificity, but site characteristics may be important in this regard. Most subnetworks were extremely specialized, such as those including Tortricidae and Bruchinae in Panama. Plant phylogenetic distance, plant basal area and plant traits (fruit length, number of seeds per fruit) had important effects on several network statistics in regressions weighted by sampling effort. A path analysis revealed a weak direct influence of plant phylogenetic distance on parasitoid richness, indicating limited support for the 'nasty host hypothesis'. Our study emphasizes the duality between seed dispersal and seed predation networks in the tropics, as key plant species differ and host specificity tends to be low in the former and higher in the latter. This underlines the need to study both types of networks for sound practices of forest regeneration and conservation.


Barro Colorado Island; functional group; nasty host hypothesis; plant phylogeny; quantitative food web; seed predation

Published in

2021, volume: 130, number: 9, pages: 1462-1476
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Basset, Yves
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Jorge, Leonardo R.
University of South Bohemia Ceske Budejovice
Butterill, Philip T.
University of South Bohemia Ceske Budejovice
Lamarre, Greg P. A.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Dahl, Chris
Czech Academy of Sciences
Ctvrtecka, Richard
Czech Academy of Sciences
Gripenberg, Sofia
University of Reading
Lewis, Owen T.
University of Oxford
Barrios, Hector
Universidad de Panama
Brown, John W.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Bunyavejchewin, Sarayudh
Dept Natl Pk Wildlife and Plant Conservat
Butcher, Buntika A.
Chulalongkorn University
Cognato, Anthony
Michigan State University
Davies, Stuart J.
Smithsonian Institution
Kaman, Ondrej
Czech Academy of Sciences
Klimes, Petr
Czech Academy of Sciences
Knizek, Milos
Forestry and Game Management Research Institute
Miller, Scott E.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Morse, Geoffrey E.
University of San Diego
Novotny, Vojtech
Czech Academy of Sciences
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Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land

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