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Do functional traits improve prediction of predation rates for a disparate group of aphid predators?

  • Bell, J R
  • Mead, A
  • Skirvin, D J
  • Sunderland, K D
  • Fenlon, J S
  • Symondson, W O C
Published Article
Bulletin of entomological research
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2008
DOI: 10.1017/S0007485308005919
PMID: 18590596


Aphid predators are a systematically disparate group of arthropods united on the basis that they consume aphids as part of their diet. In Europe, this group includes Araneae, Opiliones, Heteroptera, chrysopids, Forficulina, syrphid larvae, carabids, staphylinids, cantharids and coccinellids. This functional group has no phylogenetic meaning but was created by ecologists as a way of understanding predation, particularly for conservation biological control. We investigated whether trait-based approaches could bring some cohesion and structure to this predator group. A taxonomic hierarchy-based null model was created from taxonomic distances in which a simple multiplicative relationship described the Linnaean hierarchies (species, genera, etc.) of fifty common aphid predators. Using the same fifty species, a functional groups model was developed using ten behavioural traits (e.g. polyphagy, dispersal, activity, etc.) to describe the way in which aphids were predated in the field. The interrelationships between species were then expressed as dissimilarities within each model and separately analysed using PROXSCAL, a multidimensional scaling (MDS) program. When ordinated using PROXSCAL and then statistically compared using Procrustes analysis, we found that only 17% of information was shared between the two configurations. Polyphagy across kingdoms (i.e. predatory behaviour across animal, plant and fungi kingdoms) and the ability to withstand starvation over days, weeks and months were particularly divisive within the functional groups model. Confirmatory MDS indicated poor prediction of aphid predation rates by the configurations derived from either model. The counterintuitive conclusion was that the inclusion of functional traits, pertinent to the way in which predators fed on aphids, did not lead to a large improvement in the prediction of predation rate when compared to the standard taxonomic approach.

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