Public Library of Science
Understanding how and why biological communities are organized over space and time is a major challenge and can aid biodiversity conservation in times of global changes. Herein, spatial-temporal variation in the structure of velvet ant communities was examined along a forest-savanna gradient in the Brazilian Cerrado to assess the roles of environmental filters and interspecific interactions upon community assembly. Velvet ants were sampled using 25 arrays of Y-shaped pitfall traps with drift fences for one year along an environmental gradient from cerrado sensu stricto (open canopy, warmer, drier) to cerradão (closed canopy, cooler, moister). Dataloggers installed on each trap recorded microclimate parameters throughout the study period. The effects of spatial distances, microclimate parameters and shared ancestry on species abundances and turnover were assessed with canonical correspondence analysis, generalized dissimilarity modelling and variance components analysis. Velvet ant diversity and abundance were higher in the cerrado sensu stricto and early in the wet season. There was pronounced compositional turnover along the environmental gradient, and temporal variation in richness and abundance was stronger than spatial variation. The dry season blooming of woody plant species fosters host abundance and, subsequently, velvet ant captures. Species were taxonomically clustered along the gradient with Sphaeropthalmina (especially Traumatomutilla spp.) and Pseudomethocina more associated, respectively, with cerrado sensu stricto and cerradão. This suggests a predominant role of environmental filters on community assemble, with physiological tolerances and host preferences being shared among members of the same lineages. Induced environmental changes in Cerrado can impact communities of wasps and their hosts with unpredictable consequences upon ecosystem functioning and services.
Alvarenga, Júlio Miguel; Vieira, Cecília Rodrigues; Godinho, Leandro Braga; Campelo, Pedro Henrique; Pitts, James P.; and Colli, Guarino Rinaldi, "Spatial-Temporal Dynamics of Neotropical Velvet Ant (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) Communities Along a Forest-Savanna Gradient" (2017). Biology Faculty Publications. Paper 1578.