PerspectiveEcology

Structure and Dynamics of Ecological Networks

Science  13 Aug 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5993, pp. 765-766
DOI: 10.1126/science.1194255

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Summary

Ecologists have a long tradition of studying how species interact. Almost all of this work, however, has focused on networks involved in a single type of interaction. For instance, ecologists have studied either “antagonistic” interactions, such as those in who-eats-who food webs, or, more recently, mutually beneficial interactions, such as those between flowering plants and their insect pollinators. Very few studies have embraced both (13), leaving a key question: To what degree do different kinds of interactions lead to ecological networks with different structures? The answer is crucial to understanding the suite of ecological, evolutionary, and coevolutionary processes that shape these networks and how they may respond to future changes. On page 853 of this issue, Thébault and Fontaine (4) take an important step forward by comparing the structure and dynamics of antagonistic and mutualistic networks.