, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 83-105

Host Specificity, Alpha- and Beta-Diversity of Phytophagous Beetles in Two Tropical Forests in Panama

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Abstract

Species diversity, host specificity and species turnover among phytophagous beetles were studied in the canopy of two tropical lowland forests in Panama with the use of canopy cranes. A sharp rainfall gradient occurs between the two sites located 80 km apart. The wetter forest is located in San Lorenzo Protected Area on the Caribbean side of the isthmus, and the drier forest is a part of the Parque Natural Metropolitano close to Panama City on the Pacific slope. Host specificity was measured as effective specialization and recorded by probability methods based on abundance categories and feeding records from a total of 102 species of trees and lianas equally distributed between the two sites. The total material collected included more than 65,000 beetles of 2462 species, of which 306 species were shared between the two sites. The wet forest was 37% more species rich than the dry forest due to more saproxylic species and flower visitors. Saproxylic species and flower visitors were also more host-specific in the wet forest. Leaf chewers showed similar levels of species richness and host specificity in both forests. The effective number of specialized species per plant species was higher in the wet forest. Higher levels of local alpha- and beta-diversity as well as host specificity based on present data from a tropical wet forest, suggests higher number of species at regional levels, a result that may have consequences for ecological estimates of global species richness.