ECOLOGY/EVOLUTION: Intricate Webs in the Rain Forest

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Science  27 Sep 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5590, pp. 2171d
DOI: 10.1126/science.297.5590.2171d

The processes maintaining the high diversity of tropical rain-forest organisms remain a central focus of ecological research. Quantifying the trophic interactions between species via the construction of food webs is a key to understanding the structuring of these communities and the relative abundances of their components. Lewis et al. constructed quantitative food webs for leaf-mining insects, their food plants, and their parasitoids for a rain forest in Belize. This analysis, involving 93 leaf miner species, 84 parasitoid species, and 71 species of host plants at three different seasons, is the most comprehensive one to date. The leaf miners were fastidious in their choice of plant, whereas the parasitoids tended to be catholic, attacking a range of insects. The analysis suggests that herbivorous insect species might indirectly influence each other's abundance and population dynamics, with the more abundant species having greater effects on the less abundant ones. — AMS

J. Anim. Ecol. 71, 855 (2002).

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