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Coexistence of Insect Species competing for a pulsed resource: toward a unified theory of biodiversity in fluctuating environments

Abstract : Background: One major challenge in understanding how biodiversity is organized is finding out whether communities of competing species are shaped exclusively by species-level differences in ecological traits (niche theory), exclusively by random processes (neutral theory of biodiversity), or by both processes simultaneously. Communities of species competing for a pulsed resource are a suitable system for testing these theories: due to marked fluctuations in resource availability, the theories yield very different predictions about the timing of resource use and the synchronization of the population dynamics between the competing species. Accordingly, we explored mechanisms that might promote the local coexistence of phytophagous insects (four sister species of the genus Curculio) competing for oak acorns, a pulsed resource. Methodology/Principal Findings: We analyzed the time partitioning of the exploitation of oak acorns by the four weevil species in two independent communities, and we assessed the level of synchronization in their population dynamics. In accordance with the niche theory, overall these species exhibited marked time partitioning of resource use, both within a given year and between different years owing to different dormancy strategies between species, as well as distinct demographic patterns. Two of the four weevil species, however, consistently exploited the resource during the same period of the year, exhibited a similar dormancy pattern, and did not show any significant difference in their population dynamics. Conclusions/Significance: The marked time partitioning of the resource use appears as a keystone of the coexistence of these competing insect species, except for two of them which are demographically nearly equivalent. Communities of consumers of pulsed resources thus seem to offer a promising avenue for developing a unifying theory of biodiversity in fluctuating environments which might predict the co-occurrence, within the same community, of species that are ecologically either very similar, or very different.
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Contributor : Stéphane Delmotte Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 2:22:59 PM
Last modification on : Monday, April 4, 2022 - 5:49:54 PM

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Samuel Venner, P-F. Pelisson, Marie-Claude Bel-Venner, F. Debias, Etienne Rajon, et al.. Coexistence of Insect Species competing for a pulsed resource: toward a unified theory of biodiversity in fluctuating environments. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2011, 6 (3), pp.e18039. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0018039⟩. ⟨hal-00698304⟩



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