Are insect pollinators more generalist than insect herbivores?

NERC Centre for Population Biology, Division of Biology, Imperial College London, , Silwood Park Campus, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7PY, UK.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 5.05). 07/2009; 276(1669):3027-33. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0635
Source: PubMed


Recent community-level studies have acknowledged that generalist species are more widespread than previously thought and highlighted their preponderant impact on community functioning and evolution. It is suggested that the type of interaction, trophic versus mutualistic, should affect species generalization level; however, no direct comparison has been made yet. Here, we performed such a comparison using 44 plant-insect networks describing either pollination or herbivory communities. Our analysis shows that the type of interaction does indeed have an impact on various aspects of species generalism, from the distribution of generalism in the community to the phylogenetic diversity of the plants with which a given insect species interacts. However, the amplitude of the observed differences depends on the aspect of species generalism studied. While the non-quantitative and quantitative measures of generalism suggest that pollinators interact with more plant species and more evenly than herbivores, phylogenetic measures clearly show that herbivores interact with plant species far more closely related to each other than pollinators. This comparative approach offers a promising perspective to better understand the functioning and evolution of multispecies assemblages by pointing out some fundamental singularities of communities depending on the type of interaction considered.

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