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Nature. 2008 Jan 24;451(7177):457-9. doi: 10.1038/nature06477.

Clusters of ant colonies and robust criticality in a tropical agroecosystem.

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1
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Kraus Natural Science Building, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA. jvander@umich.edu

Abstract

Although sometimes difficult to measure at large scales, spatial pattern is important in natural biological spaces as a determinant of key ecological properties such as species diversity, stability, resiliency and others. Here we demonstrate, at a large spatial scale, that a common species of tropical arboreal ant forms clusters of nests through a combination of local satellite colony formation and density-dependent control by natural enemies, mainly a parasitic fly. Cluster sizes fall off as a power law consistent with a so-called robust critical state. This endogenous cluster formation at a critical state is a unique example of an insect population forming a non-random pattern at a large spatial scale. Furthermore, because the species is a keystone of a larger network that contributes to the ecosystem function of pest control, this is an example of how spatial dynamics at a large scale can affect ecosystem service at a local level.

PMID:
18216853
DOI:
10.1038/nature06477
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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