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Nature: “Insects everywhere”

August 20, 2007

Nature: “Insects everywhere”

Insects are a major force in most ecosystems, yet in studies of biodiversity they often receive less attention than birds, mammals and plants

Nature: “Insects everywhere” “Insects are a major force in most ecosystems, yet in studies of biodiversity they often receive less attention than birds, mammals and plants. Two papers this week redress the balance. Novotny et al[1]. studied some 500 species of lepidopteran caterpillars, beetles and fruit flies across 75,000 km2 of rain forest in Papua New Guinea. They found that most species of herbivorous insects were widely distributed. Species richness was high, as expected in the tropics, but the species found did not alter much even over hundreds of kilometers. Dyer et al. reached rather different conclusions from their work on hundreds of thousands of host-specificity feeding records for butterfly and moth caterpillars from areas ranging from Canada to Brazil. They found that the average number of tree species on which an insect species feeds was fewer in the tropics than in temperate parts of the New World, a confirmation of the latitudinal gradient in ecological specialization much discussed by biolog sts since the time of Darwin and Wallace. With apparently contradictory results such as these two reports, though, the discussion may run and run.”

Editor's Summary, Nature, 9 August 2007 The article by Novotny and collaborators produced two more articles in the same issue of Nature: “Host specificity of Lepidoptera in tropical and temperate forests” by L.A. Dyer from Tulane University and collaborators including STRI research associates Robert E. Ricklefs, Tom Kursar and Lissie Coley, as well as STRI’s Yves Basset and Scott E. Miller, and “Biodiversity: World of insects” by Nigel E. Stork. Nature's editor in his summary of Stork's article in the “News and Views” section of this journal writes: “When it comes to understanding patterns of biodiversity, ours is a little-known planet. Large-scale sampling projects, as carried out in two investigations of insect diversity, show a way forward.”

[1] Novotny, Vojtech, Miller, Scott E., Hulcr, Jiri, Drew, Richard A. I., Basset, Yves, Janda, Milan, Setliff, Gregory P., Darrow, Karolyn, Stewart, Alan J. A., Auga, John, Isua, Brus, Molem, Kenneth, Manumbor, Markus, Tamtiai, Elvis, Mogia, Martin, and Weiblen, George D. 2007. "Low beta diversity of herbivorous insects in tropical forests." Nature 448(7154): 692-695.

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