The effect of the taxon and geographic range size of host eucalypt species on the species richness of gall-forming insects

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Abstract

Abstract This field study was designed to test whether the taxonomic group and geographic range size of a host plant species, usually found to influence insect species richness in other parts of the world, affected the number of gall species on Australian eucalypts. We assessed the local and regional species richness of gall-forming insects on five pairs of closely related eucalypt species. One pair belonged to the subgenus Corymbia, one to Monocalyptus, and three to different sections of Symphyomyrtus. Each eucalypt pair comprised a large and a small geographic range species. Species pairs were from coastal or inland regions of eastern Australia. The total number of gall species on eucalypt species with large geographic ranges was greater than on eucalypt species with small ranges, but only after the strong effect of eucalypt taxonomic grouping was taken into account. There was no relationship between the geographic range size of eucalypt species and the size of local assemblages of gall species, but the variation in insect species composition between local sites was higher on eucalypt species with large ranges than on those with small ranges. Thus the effect of host plant range size on insect species richness was due to greater differentiation between more widespread locations, rather than to greater local species richness. This study confirms the role of the geographic range size of a host plant in the determination of insect species richness and provides evidence for the importance of the taxon of a host plant.

Ancillary