Maliau insects fungi project (proposal)

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Both insects and fungi are incredibly numerous and important to any ecosystem that they inhabit. In their respective ecological domains, insects and fungi reign supreme in any meaningful measure of consequence. While much work has been done in examining insect diversity as a function of plant diversity (Erwin, Novotny), much less work has been done on obligate insect and fungi associations and their implications for overall insect abundance in the world. With fungi species abundance estimates ranging from 1 million to 9.9 million, such investigations of associations could have huge implications for worldwide insect abundances estimates.


What kinds of patterns of host specificity are visible in insect and fungi associations?


We expect there to be low host specificity among closely related clades of fungi, especially on the species level. We also expect coleoptera that live in mushroom gills to show the highest degree of specificity whereas diptera will show the lowest degree of specificity. Finally, we expect fungi genus to be meaningful units when discussing insect abundance a la Novotny.


We will randomly designate 30 5m x 5m sample plots in Maliau Basin, Sabah, Borneo. Inside each plot we will collect each substantial fruiting body up to 2m off of the ground. In addition to collecting the fruiting body, we will estimate the number of flying insects that are near the fruiting body. We will then return to the lab and identify each fungi sample to genus. After we have identified the fungi, we will then sample and collect all of the insects that we find living inside of the fungi. We will identify each insect sample to at least family and attempt to identify them to genus.


All data will be analyzed in the statistical analysis platform R. We will use a battery of parametric tests to identify any patterns of host specificity that might be apparent. We will pay special attention toward patterns that we see on the level of fungi genus as well as the specificity of coleoptera and diptera.


Erwin, T. L. Tropical forests: their richness in Coleoptera and other species. Coleopterist’s Bull. 36,74–75 (1982).

Novotny, V., Basset, Y., Miller, S.E., Weiblen, G.D., Bremer, B., Cizek, L., Drozd, P. Low host specificity of herbivorous insects in a tropical forest. Nature vol 416, 841-843 (2002)

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