A continuum of specialists and generalists in empirical communities

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Timothée PoisotMichael E Hochberg

Abstract

Understanding the persistence of specialists and generalists within ecological communities is a topical research question, with far-reaching consequences for the maintenance of functional diversity. Although theoretical studies indicate that restricted conditions may be necessary to achieve co-occurrence of specialists and generalists, analyses of larger empirical (and species-rich) communities reveal the pervasiveness of coexistence. In this paper, we analyze 175 ecological bipartite networks of three interaction types (animal hosts-parasite, plant-herbivore and plant-pollinator), and measure the extent to which these communities are composed of species with different levels of specificity in their biotic interactions. We find a continuum from specialism to generalism. Furthermore, we demonstrate that diversity tends to be greatest in networks with intermediate connectance, and argue this is because of physical constraints in the filling of networks.

Related Concepts

Parasites
Research
Theoretical Study
Intermediate
Herbivory
Drug Interactions
Analysis
Specialty Physician
Species

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