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J R Soc Interface. 2013 Jan 6;10(78):20120649. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2012.0649. Epub 2012 Sep 26.

Interaction intimacy organizes networks of antagonistic interactions in different ways.

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Departamento de Ecologia, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.


Interaction intimacy, the degree of biological integration between interacting individuals, shapes the ecology and evolution of species interactions. A major question in ecology is whether interaction intimacy also shapes the way interactions are organized within communities. We combined analyses of network structure and food web models to test the role of interaction intimacy in determining patterns of antagonistic interactions, such as host-parasite, predator-prey and plant-herbivore interactions. Networks describing interactions with low intimacy were more connected, more nested and less modular than high-intimacy networks. Moreover, the performance of the models differed across networks with different levels of intimacy. All models reproduced well low-intimacy networks, whereas the more elaborate models were also capable of reproducing networks depicting interactions with higher levels of intimacy. Our results indicate the key role of interaction intimacy in organizing antagonisms, suggesting that greater interaction intimacy might be associated with greater complexity in the assembly rules shaping ecological networks.

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