Theoretical Ecology

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 107–115 | Cite as

The phylogenetic component of food web structure and intervality

  • Anna EklöfEmail author
  • Daniel B. Stouffer


Despite the exceptional complexity formed by species and their interactions in ecological networks, such as food webs, regularities in the network structures are repeatedly demonstrated. The interactions are determined by the characteristics of a species. The characteristics are in turn determined by the species’ phylogenetic relationships, but also by factors not related to evolutionary history. Here, we test whether species’ phylogenetic relationships provides a significant proxy for food web intervality. We thereafter quantify the degree to which different species traits remain valuable predictors of food web structure after the baseline effect of species’ relatedness has been removed. We find that the phylogenetic relationships provide a significant background from which to estimate food web intervality and thereby structure. However, we also find that there is an important, non-negligible part of some traits, e.g., body size, in food webs that is not accounted for by the phylogenetic relationships. Additionally, both these relationships differ depending if a predator or a prey perspective is adopted. Clearly, species’ evolutionary history as well as traits not determined by phylogenetic relationships shapes predator-prey interactions in food webs, and the underlying evolutionary processes take place on slightly different time scales depending on the direction of predator-prey adaptations.


Ecological networks Food web Intervality Phylogenetic correction Taxonomy Traits 



AE acknowledges the support of Swedish Research Council Grant for Young Researchers. DBS acknowledges a Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant (UOC-1101) and Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, both administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand. The authors also thank Ute Jacob for agreeing to share the trait data.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physics, Chemistry and BiologyLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  2. 2.Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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