Is there more specialization in the tropics? Chime in at @DynamicEcology

An insanely cool insect at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica (Photo by Emilio Bruna)

An insanely cool insect at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica (Photo by Emilio Bruna)

There is an interesting discussion on the Dynamic Ecology blog of a guest post by Angela Moles and Jeff Oleerton entitled “Is the notion that species interactions are stronger and more specialized in the tropics a zombie idea?

Jeremy Fox coined the term Zombie Idea for ecological concepts that should be considered dead based on the evidence but that continue to persist in the ecological literature.  The premise for Angela and Jeff’s post is as follows:

The idea that biotic interactions are more intense and specialized at low latitudes is extremely widely accepted (e.g. Schemske et al. 2009; Coley & Kursar 2014). We both set out to study aspects of this idea with the full expectation that our work would confirm the traditional ideas. However, as the data rolled in, it became clear that many of the links in the lovely chain of logic above turn out to be weak or broken.

There’s been a really lively discussion to this post, as well as a call for biologists who know the tropical literature to add to the discussion. Please do so!  Personally, I think agree that we should carefully reconsider concepts we consider truisms (=dogma) and that the idea of universally more specialization in the tropics is overstated. But I’m not sure that the assumption biotic interactions in the tropics are far more specialized than in the temperate zone is actually “extremely widely accepted”, nor that the assumptions that initially led to this idea (e.g., aseasonality, continuous productivity) have been considered true by anyone for the last twenty tears (if not much more).  What do you think? Please go read and comment on their post, it’s really interesting food for thought.


PS No page charges on your next article if you can identify the insect in the photo – I haven’t a clue what it is.