Low host specificity in species-rich assemblages of xylem- and phloem-feeding herbivores (Auchenorrhyncha) in a New Guinea lowland rain forest

Francesca F. Dem, Alan J.A. Stewart, Amos Gibson, George D. Weiblen, Vojtech Novotny

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4 Scopus citations


We documented one of the most species-rich assemblages of tropical rain-forest Auchenorrhyncha, comprising 402 phloem- and xylem-feeding species, by sampling adults from forest vegetation. Further, we reared 106 species from larvae sampled on 14 plant species. Both xylem- and phloem-feeding guilds exhibited wide host-plant ranges, as 74% of species fed onmore than one plant family. In comparison, using data extracted from the temperatezone literature, phloem-feeders exhibited lower host specificity in Papua New Guinea than in Germany, because in Papua New Guinea theywere dominated by generalist Fulgoroideawhile in Germany by specialistMembracoidea. The similarity of Auchenorrhyncha assemblages from different plant species was unrelated to the phylogenetic distance between their hosts. Host specificity, abundance and species composition of Auchenorrhyncha assemblages were unrelated to the optimum of their host plant species on succession gradient from secondary to primary forest. Higher host specificity did not lead to greater species richness in Auchenorrhyncha assemblages feeding on different plant species, but the number of species feeding on a particular plant species was a strong predictor of the Auchenorrhyncha abundance on that plant. These patterns suggest that Auchenorrhyncha assemblages on these plant species are not saturated with species and determined by division of limited resources among competitors, but instead are dependent on the number of colonizers from the regional species pool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-476
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Tropical Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013


  • Food web
  • Hemiptera
  • Host specialization
  • Latitudinal diversity gradient
  • Leafhoppers
  • Planthoppers

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