Understanding patterns of ecological specialization, the processes underlying niche partitioning and how they translate into the structure of interaction networks is a persistent challenge in ecology. Advances on this regard are limited by the prevalent focus on single spatial scales, lack of tests of the mechanisms underlying specialization, and scarce investigation of some types of interactions. Here we investigated the patterns of interaction between plants and florivores (flower‐breeding drosophilids, FBD) at species‐ and community‐level and at local and regional scales, and tested the relative importance of multiple potential drivers of frequencies of interactions in a local network. First, based on a year‐round collection of 42 322 flowers belonging to 82 plant species, we investigated species specialization and network structure and tested whether frequencies of interactions were related to plant–consumer temporal overlap and resource availability. Second, we built a regional florivore–plant meta‐network for the Neotropical region and tested its structure for nestedness, modularity and overall specialization. Our findings revealed that although FBD species span a broad range of degrees of specialization, most species were highly specialized. At both local and regional scales, network structure was highly modular and non‐nested, presenting high complementary specialization. Moreover, phenological overlap between FBD and their hosts was the most influential driver of frequency of interactions, in comparison to abundance and traits. By describing the structure of FBD–plant networks, our results illustrate how a highly diverse and specialized system retains interaction patterns found in other types of interaction networks which are often driven by different processes. Furthermore, despite undersampling of interactions in the meta‐network caused by the lack of studies on this system and the high diversity of Neotropical FBD's, the high modularity and consistency of some clade–clade modules across spatial scales suggests the importance of evolutionary history and physiological constraints in shaping interactions in this system.
Although studies on drosophilid (Diptera, Drosophilidae) assemblages have become relatively abundant in the past decades, many environments remain to be searched. The present study investigates the composition, the species abundances and the richness of the drosophilid assemblages in two localities of the municipality of Cruz Alta, northwestern region of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, a point of contact between the biomes Atlantic Forest and Pampa: (i) an urban area (2007), constituted by a domestic orchard with Citrus trees, and (ii) a forested area, in Centro de Educação, Pesquisa e Proteção Ambiental - CEPPA (2008/2009), of Universidade de Cruz Alta, located in a fragment of riparian forest. Collections were conducted using fermented banana-baited traps and repeated periodically. A total of 7,428 individuals were caught, belonging to two subfamilies, six genera and 53 species. In the urban area, 22 species were found, from two genera (N = 2,421), while in the forested area 46 species were found, from six genera (N = 5,007). Six exotic species were found, markedly more abundant in the urban area, where they corresponded to 95% of the specimens, in comparison to 50% in the forest. Between the Neotropical species, the most common were Drosophila maculifrons Duda and D. polymorpha Dobzhansky & Pavan. Only D. simulans Sturtevant was captured in all samples in both localities. The present survey represents the first records for the state of Rio Grande do Sul of the D. canalinea and D. virilis species groups and the species D. arassari Cunha & Frota-Pessoa, D. fuscolineata Duda, D. nigricruria Patterson & Mainland, D. papei Bächli & Vilela, D. senei Vilela, D. trifilum Frota-Pessoa, D. virilis Sturtevant, Leucophenga maculosa (Coquillett) and Rhinoleucophenga obesa (Loew). Furthermore, it also represents the first record for the state of the genera Amiota Loew, Leucophenga Mik and Rhinoleucophenga Hendel and of the subfamily Steganinae. So, the present survey raises the number of drosophilid species recorded for the state from 66 to 75, the number of genera from five to eight, and subfamilies from one to two.
The present study analyzed the drosophilid assemblages in different levels of urbanization in the city of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Collections were carried out in 2008 in three different environments: a highly urbanized area-"Jardim Botânico," a forested area with intermediary urbanization-"Parque Gabriel Knijnik," and in a relatively well-preserved forested area, although threatened by the urban growth-"Morro Santana." In Jardim Botânico, 36 species belonging to four genera were found, with high abundance of exotic species as Drosophila simulans Sturtevant and Zaprionus indianus (Gupta). In Parque Gabriel Knijnik, 33 species that belonged to four genera were found, with higher abundances of native species belonging to the Drosophila tripunctata species group and Drosophila willistoni species subgroup, and lower abundance of exotic species. As for Morro Santana, 32 species and three genera were found, with higher abundances of native groups, low representativeness of exotic species, and absence of Zaprionus indianus. The analysis of the Jaccard index showed higher similarity in the species composition between samples collected in summer and autumn, and between samples collected in winter and spring. On the other hand, the Morisita index differentiated Jardim Botânico from the other two studied sites. Our results show that Morro Santana is an important area of native biodiversity, reinforcing, therefore, the inclusion of this area in the project for the creation of an ecological corridor as proposed by the Ministry of the Environment of Brazil.
Infections by the endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia developed a rapid global expansion within Old World Drosophila species, ultimately infecting also Neotropical species. In this sense, screenings are necessary to characterize new variants of Wolbachia or new hosts, and also in order to map the dynamics of already known infections. In this paper, we performed a double screening approach that combined Dot-blot and PCR techniques in order to reevaluate the infection status by Wolbachia in species from the willistoni subgroup of Drosophila. Genomic DNA from isofemale lines descendent from females collected in the Amazonian Rainforest (n=91) were submitted to Dot-blot, and were positive for Wolbachia, producing a gradient of hybridization signals, suggesting different infection levels, which was further confirmed through quantitative PCR. Samples with a strong signal in the Dot-blot easily amplified in the wsp-PCR, unlike most of the samples with a medium to weak signal. It was possible to molecularly characterize three Drosophila equinoxialis isofemale lines that were found to be infected in a low density by a wMel-like Wolbachia strain, which was also verified in a laboratory line of Drosophila paulistorum Amazonian. We also found Drosophila tropicalis to be infected with the wAu strain and a Drosophila paulistorum Andean-Brazilian semispecies laboratory line to be infected with a wAu-like Wolbachia. Moreover, we observed that all Drosophila willistoni samples tested with the VNTR-141 marker harbor the same Wolbachia variant, wWil, either in populations from the South or the North of Brazil. Horizontal transfer events involving species of Old World immigrants and Neotropical species of the willistoni subgroup are discussed.
Diptera is a megadiverse order, reaching its peak of diversity in Neotropics, although our knowledge of dipteran fauna from this region is grossly lacking. This applies even to the most studied families, such as Drosophilidae. Despite its prominence, most aspects of the biology of these insects are still poorly understood, especially those linked to natural communities. Field studies on drosophilids are highly biased towards fruit-breeding species. Flower-breeding drosophilids, however, are worldwide distributed, especially in tropical regions, although being mostly neglected. The present paper shows the results of a biodiversity inventory of flower-breeding drosophilids carried out in several localities in Brazil, based on samples of 125 plant species, from 47 families. Drosophilids were found in flowers of 56 plant species, from 18 families. The fauna discovered turned out to be mostly unknown, comprising 28 species, with 12 of them (> 40%) still undescribed. Not taking into account opportunistic species, two-thirds of the flower-exclusive diversity was undescribed. The Drosophila bromeliae species group was the most representative taxon, with eight species (six undescribed), including four polyphagous and four Solanum-specialized species. This specialization on Solanum is reported for the first time for Drosophilidae. Other taxa of restricted flower-breeding drosophilids were the Drosophila lutzii species group and two species of the genus Zygothrica Wiedemann. Some specimens of the genera Cladochaeta Coquillett, Rhinoleucophenga Hendel and Scaptomyza Hardy were found, but their relations to flowers are unclear. Additionally, ten species of broad niche were found using flowers opportunistically. Localities and host plants were recorded for all species collected.
Environmental variables such as temperature and rainfall can directly affect the community structure of dipterans. Seasonal oscillations in the abundance of species of Drosophilidae reflect differences in how tolerant populations are to climatic conditions. Over a period of 14 months, we collected samples in two habitats in the Pampa biome in the municipality of São Luiz Gonzaga, state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil (28°24'28″S, 54°57'39″W). The influence of environmental variables on populations of Drosophilidae was evaluated for both collecting sites by using correlation analysis. The results suggested a negative correlation between the abundances of Drosophila cardinoides Dobzhansky & Pavan, Drosophila maculifrons Duda, Drosophila melanogaster Meigen, Drosophila nigricruria Patterson & Mainland, and Zygothrica vittimaculosa Burla with temperature, which is reflected in the distribution of these species within Brazil. Our findings are important for characterizing and preserving biodiversity in this almost-unknown biome in southern Brazil given the current climate change scenario.
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