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The architecture of weighted mutualistic networks


L. J. Gilarranz, Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC, C/Américo Vespucio s/n, ES-41092 Sevilla, Spain. E-mail:


Several ecosystem services directly depend on mutualistic interactions. In species rich communities, these interactions can be studied using network theory. Current knowledge of mutualistic networks is based mainly on binary links; however, little is known about the role played by the weights of the interactions between species. What new information can be extracted by analyzing weighted mutualistic networks? In performing an exhaustive analysis of the topological properties of 29 weighted mutualistic networks, our results show that the generalist species, defined as those with a larger number of interactions in a network, also have the strongest interactions. Though most interactions of generalists are with specialists, the strongest interactions occur between generalists. As a result and by defining binary and weighted clustering coefficients for bipartite networks, we demonstrate that generalists form strongly-interconnected groups of species. The existence of these strong clusters reinforces the idea that generalist species govern the coevolution of the whole community.