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PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e27280. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027280. Epub 2011 Nov 2.

Do food web models reproduce the structure of mutualistic networks?

Author information

1
Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Simple models inspired by processes shaping consumer-resource interactions have helped to establish the primary processes underlying the organization of food webs, networks of trophic interactions among species. Because other ecological interactions such as mutualisms between plants and their pollinators and seed dispersers are inherently based in consumer-resource relationships we hypothesize that processes shaping food webs should organize mutualistic relationships as well.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

We used a likelihood-based model selection approach to compare the performance of food web models and that of a model designed for mutualisms, in reproducing the structure of networks depicting mutualistic relationships. Our results show that these food web models are able to reproduce the structure of most of the mutualistic networks and even the simplest among the food web models, the cascade model, often reproduce overall structural properties of real mutualistic networks.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:

Based on our results we hypothesize that processes leading to feeding hierarchy, which is a characteristic shared by all food web models, might be a fundamental aspect in the assembly of mutualisms. These findings suggest that similar underlying ecological processes might be important in organizing different types of interactions.

PMID:
22073303
PMCID:
PMC3206955
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0027280
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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