Density of Insect Galls in the Forest Understorey and Canopy: Neotropical, Gondwana or Global Patterns?

  • Sérvio Pontes Ribeiro
  • Yves Basset
  • Roger Kitching


Gall-forming insects reach highest diversity, abundance and survivorship on sclerophyllous vegetation. This pattern was recently reviewed and shown as a habitat rather than ecosystem effect. We tested the hypothesis that upper forest canopies are probably the best suitable habitat for gall-forming insects in any tropical vegetation, comparing the wet rainforest of Panama (Neotropical), and the subtropical forest of Australia (Australian). We further tested whether foliage/plant community traits could influence this gall distribution pattern, and we investigated the effect of host family size and evolutionary age. Foliage traits, leaf chewing herbivory, and gall abundance and survivorship were measured using vertical cylindric transects from the understorey to the canopy. In both Panama and Australia, leaf sclerophylly increased significantly with sampling height, while free-feeding herbivory decreased inversely. Gall distribution and survivorship responded significantly to sclerophylly, but distribution between understorey and canopy varied between study sites. The probability of gall survivorship increased with increasing leaf sclerophylly as death by fungi, parasitoids or accidental chewing were greater in the non-sclerophyllous vegetation in the understorey of both study sites. However, number of galls, proportion of infected sampled plants, and proportion of host species against total sampled species were all greater in Panamá than in Australia. On the other hand, the Australian forest had a fauna much more concentrated on fewer hosts, with 80 % of galls infesting six host species. The present study supports the existence of a global positive effect of sclerophylly on gall establishment and survivorship in the upper canopy of tropical and subtropical forests.


Canopy Gall density Leaf herbivory Sclerophyllous habitats Forest vertical distribution 



We thank Pro-Natura International, Océan Vert, the Blaise Pascal University (France), the University of Panama and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) for initiating and organizing the IBISCA-Panama project. Special thanks to the Canopy Crane team and to “Les ACCRO-branchés” for assistance with logistics in the field. O. Calderon and M. Samaniego helped with plant identification, and A. Vieira processes galls. E. Medianero, M. Faria, W. Fernandes, M. Mendonça and O. Lewis discussed some of the ideas presented here. Core funding for IBISCA was provided by SolVin-Solvay, STRI, the United Nations Environment Programme, a Walcott endowment fund grant from the Smithsonian Institution, the European Science Foundation and the Global Canopy Programme. The UFOP Pro-Rectory of Research partly funded this study. We thank also Milton Barbosa for climbing and field services; we are also grateful to S. Curtis, J. Have, S. Maunsell, D. Pamin and K. Yusah for contributions to the field work. The IBISCA Lamington project was funded by a Queensland Government Smart State Grant operated by the Department of State Development, with additional cash support from Griffith University, the Queensland Museum, Queensland Herbarium, Natural Resource Management Queensland, the Queensland National Parks Association and the Global Canopy Programme (Oxford). British Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Post-Graduate Programme in Ecology of Tropical Biomes/UFOP provided the climbing gears and training. Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa de Minas Gerais and the Brazilian Consul for Science and Technology, CNPq, funded SPR.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sérvio Pontes Ribeiro
    • 1
  • Yves Basset
    • 2
  • Roger Kitching
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecology of Canopy Insects, Department of Biodiversity, Evolution and Environment/ICEBUniversidade Federal de Ouro PretoOuro PretoBrazil
  2. 2.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstitutePanama CityRepublic of Panama
  3. 3.Griffith School of the EnvironmentGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia

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