Leaf miner and plant galler species richness on Acacia: relative importance of plant traits and climate.
ABSTRACT Diversity patterns of herbivores have been related to climate, host plant traits, host plant distribution and evolutionary relationships individually. However, few studies have assessed the relative contributions of a range of variables to explain these diversity patterns across large geographical and host plant species gradients. Here we assess the relative influence that climate and host plant traits have on endophagous species (leaf miners and plant gallers) diversity across a suite of host species from a genus that is widely distributed and morphologically variable. Forty-six species of Acacia were sampled to encapsulate the diversity of species across four taxonomic sections and a range of habitats along a 950 km climatic gradient: from subtropical forest habitats to semi-arid habitats. Plant traits, climatic variables, leaf miner and plant galler diversity were all quantified on each plant species. In total, 97 leaf mining species and 84 plant galling species were recorded from all host plants. Factors that best explained leaf miner richness across the climatic gradient (using AIC model selection) included specific leaf area (SLA), foliage thickness and mean annual rainfall. The factor that best explained plant galler richness across the climatic gradient was C:N ratio. In terms of the influence of plant and climatic traits on species composition, leaf miner assemblages were best explained by SLA, foliage thickness, mean minimum temperature and mean annual rainfall, whilst plant gall assemblages were explained by C:N ratio, %P, foliage thickness, mean minimum temperature and mean annual rainfall. This work is the first to assess diversity and structure across a broad environmental gradient and a wide range of potential key climatic and plant trait determinants simultaneously. Such methods provide key insights into endophage diversity and provide a solid basis for assessing their responses to a changing climate.
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ABSTRACT: Desiccation is a particular risk for small animals in arid environments. In response, many organisms "construct niches," favorable microenvironments where they spend part or all of their life cycle. Some maintain such environments for their offspring via parental care. Insect eggs are often protected from desiccation by parentally derived gels, casings, or cocoons, but active parental protection of offspring from desiccation has never been demonstrated. Most free-living thrips (Thysanoptera) alleviate water loss via thigmotaxis (crevice seeking). In arid Australia, Acacia thrips (Phlaeothripidae) construct many kinds of niche. Some thrips induce galls; others, like Dunatothrips aneurae, live and breed within "domiciles" made from loosely glued phyllodes. The function of domiciles is unknown; like other constructed niches, they may 1) create favorable microenvironments, 2) facilitate feeding, 3) protect from enemies, or a combination. To test the first 2 alternatives experimentally, field-collected domiciles were destroyed or left intact. Seven-day survival of feeding and nonfeeding larval stages was monitored at high (70-80%) or low (8-10%, approximately ambient) humidity. Regardless of humidity, most individuals survived in intact domiciles, whereas for destroyed domiciles, survival depended on humidity, suggesting parents construct and maintain domiciles to prevent offspring desiccating. Feeding and nonfeeding larvae had similar survival patterns, suggesting the domicile's role is not nutritional. Outside domiciles, survival at "high" humidity was intermediate, suggesting very high humidity requirements, or energetic costs of wandering outside domiciles. D. aneurae commonly cofound domiciles; cofoundresses may benefit both from shared nestbuilding costs, and from "deferred byproduct mutualism," that is, backup parental care in case of mortality.Behavioral Ecology 11/2014; 25(6):1338-1346. DOI:10.1093/beheco/aru128 · 3.16 Impact Factor
Open Journal of Ecology 01/2012; 02(04):202-213. DOI:10.4236/oje.2012.24024
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ABSTRACT: 1. Gall-forming insects are a guild of endophages that exhibit a high level of fidelity to their host plants, however, their level of host specificity is seldom explicitly tested.2. Gall-forming insect taxa from 32 species of woody tropical plants with resolved phylogenetic relationships were collected and reared, representing 15 families from all the major clades of angiosperms, at three lowland rainforest locations in Madang, Papua New Guinea (PNG).3. More than 8800 galled plant parts were collected from 78 gall morphospecies at an average of 2.4 per host plant. Total species richness at the sampling sites was estimated to be 83–89. All but one morphospecies were monophagous resulting in an effective specialisation of 0.98.4. Specific leaf weight, foliar nitrogen, the presence of latex, and the successional preference of plant species all gave a phylogenetic signal, but only plant successional preference influenced the species richness of galls on analysis of phylogenetically independent contrasts. Gall species were distributed randomly among host plant species and showed no preference for any particular plant lineage. Furthermore, most gall-forming taxa were evenly dispersed across the host plant phylogeny.5. In the tropical rainforests of New Guinea, gall-forming insects are ubiquitous but occur in species-poor assemblages. Local species richness is closely tied to the diversity of angiosperms owing to very high host specificity.6. Finally, galler species richness data from the literature across habitats and latitudes were compared and suggest that tropical rainforests may be richer in galls than previously acknowledged.Ecological Entomology 04/2015; DOI:10.1111/een.12198 · 1.97 Impact Factor