The Thermal Adaptation hypothesis posits that the warmer, aseasonal tropics generates populations with higher and narrower thermal limits. It has largely been tested among populations across latitudes. However, considerable thermal heterogeneity exists within ecosystems: across 31 trees in a Panama rainforest, surfaces exposed to sun were 8 °C warmer and varied more in temperature than surfaces in the litter below. Tiny ectotherms are confined to surfaces and are variously submerged in these superheated boundary layer environments. We quantified the surface CTmin and CTmaxs (surface temperatures at which individuals grew torpid and lost motor control, respectively) of 88 ant species from this forest that ranged in average mass from 0.01 to 57 mg.Larger ants had broader thermal tolerances. Then, for 26 of these species we again tested body CTmaxs using a thermal dry bath to eliminate boundary layer effects: body size correlations observed previously disappeared. In both experiments, consistent with Thermal Adaptation, CTmaxs of canopy ants averaged 3.5 -5 °C higher than populations that nested in the shade of the understory. We impaled thermocouples in taxidermy mounts to further quantify the factors shaping operative temperatures for four ant species representing the top third (1 -30 mg) of the size distribution. Extrapolations suggest the smallest 2/3rds of species reach thermal equilibrium in <10s. Moreover, the large ants that walk above the convective superheated surface air also showed more net heating by solar radiation, with operative temperatures up to 4 °C higher than surrounding air. The thermal environments of this Panama rainforest generate a range of CTmax Accepted ArticleThis article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.subsuming 74% of those previously recorded for ant populations worldwide. The Thermal Adaptation hypothesis can be a powerful tool in predicting diversity of thermal limits within communities. Boundary layer temperatures are likely key to predicting the future of Earth's tiny terrestrial ectotherm populations.
Many insect species are under threat from the anthropogenic drivers of global change. There have been numerous well‐documented examples of insect population declines and extinctions in the scientific literature, but recent weaker studies making extreme claims of a global crisis have drawn widespread media coverage and brought unprecedented public attention. This spotlight might be a double‐edged sword if the veracity of alarmist insect decline statements do not stand up to close scrutiny. We identify seven key challenges in drawing robust inference about insect population declines: establishment of the historical baseline, representativeness of site selection, robustness of time series trend estimation, mitigation of detection bias effects, and ability to account for potential artefacts of density dependence, phenological shifts and scale‐dependence in extrapolation from sample abundance to population‐level inference. Insect population fluctuations are complex. Greater care is needed when evaluating evidence for population trends and in identifying drivers of those trends. We present guidelines for best‐practise approaches that avoid methodological errors, mitigate potential biases and produce more robust analyses of time series trends. Despite many existing challenges and pitfalls, we present a forward‐looking prospectus for the future of insect population monitoring, highlighting opportunities for more creative exploitation of existing baseline data, technological advances in sampling and novel computational approaches. Entomologists cannot tackle these challenges alone, and it is only through collaboration with citizen scientists, other research scientists in many disciplines, and data analysts that the next generation of researchers will bridge the gap between little bugs and big data.
Sodium is an essential nutrient whose deposition in rainfall decreases with distance inland. The herbivores and microbial decomposers that feed on sodium-poor vegetation should be particularly constrained along gradients of decreasing sodium. We studied the use of sucrose and NaCl baits in 17 New World ant communities located 4 -2757 km inland. Sodium use was higher in genera and subfamilies characterized as omnivores/herbivores compared with those classified as carnivores and was lower in communities embedded in forest litter than in those embedded in abundant vegetation. Sodium use was increased in ant communities further inland, as was preference for the baits with the highest sodium concentration. Sucrose use, a measure of ant activity, peaked in communities 10 -100 km inland. We suggest that the geography of ant activity is shaped by sodium toxicity near the shore and by sodium deficit farther inland. Given the importance of ants in terrestrial ecosystems, changing patterns of rainfall with global change may ramify through inland food webs.ants ͉ biogeochemistry ͉ geography ͉ limitation ͉ sodium
Yanoviak, S. P. and Kaspari, M. 2000. Community structure and the habitat templet: ants in the tropical forest canopy and litter. -Oikos 89: 259 -266.The tropical forest canopy and litter differ in physical structure, resource availability, and abiotic conditions. We used standardized bait experiments in the canopy and litter of four neotropical tree species to explore how these differences shape the behavior, morphology, and diversity of ant assemblages. Ant activity (biomass at a bait after 32 min) was higher in the canopy, and higher on protein baits than carbohydrate baits. Aggressive bait defense occurred more frequently in the canopy (60%) than in the litter (32%), but was not associated with tree species or bait type in either habitat. The median size of workers of species in the canopy and litter was nearly identical, but body size distribution was unimodal in the canopy and bimodal in the litter. The colony size of the most aggressive species was an order of magnitude larger in the canopy. Species richness at a bait was relatively uniform across tree species and habitats. Litter and canopy shared no species, but overlap among tree species was three times higher in the litter assemblages. Litter assemblages showed less activity, less interference, less differentiation across the landscape, and different size distributions than canopy assemblages. The canopy and litter templets subsume a number of environmental gradients that combine to shape ant community structure.
Sodium (Na) is uncommon in plants but essential to the metabolism of plant consumers, both decomposers and herbivores. One consequence, previously unexplored, is that as Na supplies decrease (e.g., from coastal to inland forests), ecosystem carbon should accumulate as detritus. Here, we show that adding NaCl solution to the leaf litter of an inland Amazon forest enhanced mass loss by 41%, decreased lignin concentrations by 7%, and enhanced decomposition of pure cellulose by up to 50%, compared with stream water alone. These effects emerged after 13-18 days. Termites, a common decomposer, increased 7-fold on ؉NaCl plots, suggesting an agent for the litter loss. Ants, a common predator, increased 2-fold, suggesting that NaCl effects cascade upward through the food web. Sodium, not chloride, was likely the driver of these patterns for two reasons: two compounds of Na (NaCl and NaPO 4) resulted in equivalent cellulose loss, and ants in choice experiments underused Cl (as KCl, MgCl 2, and CaCl2) relative to NaCl and three other Na compounds (NaNO 3, Na3PO4, and Na2SO4). We provide experimental evidence that Na shortage slows the carbon cycle. Because 80% of global landmass lies >100 km inland, carbon stocks and consumer activity may frequently be regulated via Na limitation.biogeochemistry ͉ biogeography ͉ decomposition ͉ fungi ͉ termites M odels of the carbon cycle start with the coavailability of water and solar energy as key constraints to photosynthesis and respiration (1-4). Lowland tropical forests, however, have ample sunshine, often ample moisture (5), and, frequently, weathered soils (6). In such forests, nutrient shortages, most notably the shortage of P, have been shown by experiment and comparative study to constrain both net primary productivity (NPP; g C/m 2 per y) and decomposition (7-13). Moreover, recent theory and experiment have suggested that the rate of decomposition, a collaborative process involving thousands of species, is unlikely to be constrained, Liebig style, by a single element (14,15). Here, we build on those studies and those of Chadwick et al. (16) to suggest that Na plays a key role in regulating decomposition in inland ecosystems.Of the 25 or so elements required for life (17), Na is unique. Most terrestrial plants have little need of Na (18). Herbivores and decomposers, in contrast, must amass Na in concentrations 100-to 1,000-fold over the plants they consume (19). In animals, costly sodium pumps maintain gradients of cell concentration and membrane voltage (Ͼ1% deviations of whole body sodium are signs of pathology; ref. 17). In plants, K, not Na, performs this function (20). This biogeochemical disconnect between plants and those that eat them suggests that consumers, but not plants, should suffer when Na inputs to ecosystems decline.Decomposers metabolize Ͼ90% of terrestrial plant biomass (21). Decomposition, the breakdown of necromass into CO 2 and inorganic compounds, is largely performed by microbes. Some are free living (e.g., basidiomycete and ascomycete fungi), and othe...
A biomechanically parsimonious hypothesis for the evolution of flapping flight in terrestrial vertebrates suggests progression within an arboreal context from jumping to directed aerial descent, gliding with control via appendicular motions, and ultimately to powered flight. The more than 30 phylogenetically independent lineages of arboreal vertebrate gliders lend strong indirect support to the ecological feasibility of such a trajectory. Insect flight evolution likely followed a similar sequence, but is unresolved paleontologically. Recently described falling behaviors in arboreal ants provide the first evidence demonstrating the biomechanical capacity for directed aerial descent in the complete absence of wings. Intentional control of body trajectories as animals fall from heights (and usually from vegetation) likely characterizes many more taxa than is currently recognized. Understanding the sensory and biomechanical mechanisms used by extant gliding animals to control and orient their descent is central to deciphering pathways involved in flight evolution. a lizard that glided by accident: mosaics of cooption and adaptation in a tropical forest lacertid (Reptilia, Lacertidae). Bull. Averof M, Akam M. 1995. Insect-crustacean relationships: insights from comparative developmental and molecular studies.
Habitat fragmentation and conversion are among the human activities that pose the greatest threat to species persistence and conservation of biodiversity. This is particularly true in the Neotropics, where bats represent important components of biodiversity from taxonomic and functional perspectives, and provide critical ecosystem services (e.g., seed dispersal and pollination). We assessed the degree to which conversion of lowland Amazonian rain forest to agriculture, and its subsequent abandonment and secondary succession, affect the abundances of populations of phyllostomid bats in the vicinity of Iquitos, Perú. During 90,720 net‐m‐h of sampling, we captured 3789 bats of five families; of these 3764 were phyllostomids representing 44 species, 23 genera, and three feeding guilds. We focus on the 24 most abundant species of phyllostomids. In terms of abundance, frugivores dominated assemblages in all habitat types and seasons. Eight species consistently responded to habitat conversion, two species consistently responded to season, two species responded consistently to both habitat and season, and five species responded to habitat conversion in a season‐specific manner. Frugivores and nectarivores were abundant in areas that had been converted to agriculture, which suggests that these bats are resilient to extant levels of disturbance and may be important in promoting secondary succession. However, this result may be scale‐ or context‐dependent. If habitat conversion continues and dramatically reduces the areal extent and increases fragmentation of mature forest, then a complex metacommunity dynamic may characterize the region and source populations of bats may become threatened or extirpated locally.
Numerous non-flying arboreal vertebrates use controlled descent (either parachuting or gliding sensu stricto) to avoid predation or to locate resources, and directional control during a jump or fall is thought to be an important stage in the evolution of flight. Here we show that workers of the neotropical ant Cephalotes atratus L. (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) use directed aerial descent to return to their home tree trunk with >80% success during a fall. Videotaped falls reveal that C. atratus workers descend abdomen-first through steep glide trajectories at relatively high velocities; a field experiment shows that falling ants use visual cues to locate tree trunks before they hit the forest floor. Smaller workers of C. atratus, and smaller species of Cephalotes more generally, regain contact with their associated tree trunk over shorter vertical distances than do larger workers. Surveys of common arboreal ants suggest that directed descent occurs in most species of the tribe Cephalotini and arboreal Pseudomyrmecinae, but not in arboreal ponerimorphs or Dolichoderinae. This is the first study to document the mechanics and ecological relevance of this form of locomotion in the Earth's most diverse lineage, the insects.
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