Abundance and generalisation in mutualistic networks: Solving the chicken-and-egg dilemma

Hugo Fort, Diego P Vazquez, Boon Leong Lan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    50 Citations (Scopus)


    A frequent observation in plant-animal mutualistic networks is that abundant species tend to be more generalised, interacting with a broader range of interaction partners than rare species. Uncovering the causal relationship between abundance and generalisation has been hindered by a chicken-and-egg dilemma: is generalisation a by-product of being abundant, or does high abundance result from generalisation? Here, we analyse a database of plant-pollinator and plant-seed disperser networks, and provide strong evidence that the causal link between abundance and generalisation is uni-directional. Specifically, species appear to be generalists because they are more abundant, but the converse, that is that species become more abundant because they are generalists, is not supported by our analysis. Furthermore, null model analyses suggest that abundant species interact with many other species simply because they are more likely to encounter potential interaction partners.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4 - 11
    Number of pages8
    JournalEcology Letters
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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