Literature Review: Some Finer Points of Species Interactions

by Carl Strang

This week’s literature focus is on three papers that looked at complex interactions among species.

Ben-Ari M, Inbar M (2013) When Herbivores Eat Predators: Predatory Insects Effectively Avoid Incidental Ingestion by Mammalian Herbivores. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56748. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056748 They found that lady beetle adults and larvae of three species responded to the humidity and warmth of mammalian breath by dropping to the ground beneath their aphid plants. The adults dropped instead of flying.

A colony of aphids occupies a goldenrod top. If a deer were to munch that top the aphids would add some protein, but ladybugs preying on the colony might get away.

A colony of aphids occupies a goldenrod top. If a deer were to munch that top the aphids would add some protein, but ladybugs preying on the colony might get away.

Mouillot D, Bellwood DR, Baraloto C, Chave J, Galzin R, et al. (2013) Rare Species Support Vulnerable Functions in High-Diversity Ecosystems. PLoS Biol 11(5): e1001569. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001569 They looked at tropical fish, alpine plants and tropical trees, considering rarity vs. ecosystem function. Rare species often fill ecological roles that are not covered by common species, and so their loss could cause significant ecological damage.

Dunne JA, Lafferty KD, Dobson AP, Hechinger RF, Kuris AM, et al. (2013) Parasites Affect Food Web Structure Primarily through Increased Diversity and Complexity. PLoS Biol 11(6): e1001579. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001579 They compared food web structure with and without parasites, and found that for the most part the parasites’ influence was an increase in community diversity and complexity rather than adding new features to web structure. The exceptions were the incidental consumption of parasites with their hosts by predators, and the odd connections that result when some parasites have more than one host during their life cycle.

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