Diet Segregation between Cohabiting Builder and Inquiline Termite Species

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Abstract

How do termite inquilines manage to cohabit termitaria along with the termite builder species? With this in mind, we analysed one of the several strategies that inquilines could use to circumvent conflicts with their hosts, namely, the use of distinct diets. We inspected overlapping patterns for the diets of several cohabiting Neotropical termite species, as inferred from carbon and nitrogen isotopic signatures for termite individuals. Cohabitant communities from distinct termitaria presented overlapping diet spaces, indicating that they exploited similar diets at the regional scale. When such communities were split into their components, full diet segregation could be observed between builders and inquilines, at regional (environment-wide) and local (termitarium) scales. Additionally, diet segregation among inquilines themselves was also observed in the vast majority of inspected termitaria. Inquiline species distribution among termitaria was not random. Environmental-wide diet similarity, coupled with local diet segregation and deterministic inquiline distribution, could denounce interactions for feeding resources. However, inquilines and builders not sharing the same termitarium, and thus not subject to potential conflicts, still exhibited distinct diets. Moreover, the areas of the builder's diet space and that of its inquilines did not correlate negatively. Accordingly, the diet areas of builders which hosted inquilines were in average as large as the areas of builders hosting no inquilines. Such results indicate the possibility that dietary partitioning by these cohabiting termites was not majorly driven by current interactive constraints. Rather, it seems to be a result of traits previously fixed in the evolutionary past of cohabitants. © 2013 Florencio et al.

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Florencio, D. F., Marins, A., Rosa, C. S., Cristaldo, P. F., Araújo, A. P. A., Silva, I. R., & DeSouza, O. (2013). Diet Segregation between Cohabiting Builder and Inquiline Termite Species. PLoS ONE, 8(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0066535

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