Morphological traits as predictors of diet and microhabitat use in a diverse beetle assemblage Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • We explored how morphological traits can complement phylogenetic information to extend our predictions of the ecology of a diverse beetle assemblage. We analysed ten morphological traits from an assemblage of 239 species from 35 families, and identified three axes of morphological variation that were independent of body length: (1) relative robustness; (2) relative appendage length; and (3) relative abdomen length. The trait associations defining these axes of morphological variation did not change after adjusting for family-level phylogeny. We detected significant differences in morphological variation across the beetle assemblage according to diet and microhabitat use, and these patterns were only partially influenced by family membership. Further analysis within dominant families showed that species of Carabidae, Curculionidae, Scarabaeidae and Staphylinidae had greater body length in open versus tree litter microhabitat, and species of Carabidae and Curculionidae had greater relative robustness, but shorter relative appendage length, in open versus tree litter microhabitat. Although it is clear that family-level phylogeny and morphology share some explanatory power for predicting the diet and microhabitat use by beetles, we demonstrate that body length, robustness and appendage length are correlated significantly with microhabitat use when comparing members of the same family.

authors

  • BARTON, PHILIPS
  • GIBB, HELOISE
  • MANNING, ADRIAND
  • LINDENMAYER, DAVIDB
  • CUNNINGHAM, SAULA

publication date

  • February 2011