, Volume 90, Issue 2, pp 172-184

Aquatic arthropod communities in Nepenthes pitchers: the role of niche differentiation, aggregation, predation and competition in community organization

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Summary

The structure and organization of aquatic arthropod communities in Nepenthes ampullaria pitchers were studied at two sites (M in Malacca and K in Kuching) in Malaysia. The communities consisted mainly of aquatic dipteran larvae. Community M was dominated by a filter feeder, Tripteroides tenax, which reached a high density despite a strongly aggregated distribution. Community K had five trophic groups: carrion feeders, filter feeders, detritus feeders, nipping predators and hooking predators, each including multiple species. The summed density of filter feeders in Community K remained much below the level attained by filter feeders in Community M. Niche differentiation within each trophic group with regard to pitcher age and feeding behaviour was not sufficient to allow species coexistence through niche separation alone. Aggregated distributions directly reduced interspecific encounters. Nevertheless, species belonging to the same trophic group commonly shared the same pitcher, because of high occurrence probabilities of dominant species and positive associations between some taxa (due mainly to similar occupancies by pitcher age). Predator coexistence in Community K may have been facilitated by self-limitation of the large predators through intraspecific cannibalism strengthened by aggregation. Prey coexistence, on the other hand, may have relied more on population suppression by predation, especially the selective removal of old instar Tripteroides.