Relationship between tree size and insect assemblages associated with Anadenanthera macrocarpa


  • Ricardo I. Campos,

  • Heraldo L. Vasconcelos,

  • Sérvio P. Ribeiro,

  • Frederico S. Neves,

  • Janaina P. Soares

R. I. Campos ( and H. L. Vasconcelos, Inst. de Biologia, Univ. Federal de Uberlândia (UFU), Campus Umuarama, C.P. 593, 38400-902 Uberlândia, MG, Brazil. – S. P. Ribeiro and J. P. Soares, Inst. de Ciências Exatas e Biológicas, Univ. Federal de Ouro Preto, Morro do Cruzeiro, Campus Universitário, 35400-000 Ouro Preto, MG, Brazil. – F. S. Neves, Dept de Biologia Animal, Univ. Federal de Viçosa, Campus Universitário, 36571-000 Viçosa, MG, Brazil.


This study analyzed the effects of tree size, and correlated architectural tree characteristics, on the assemblages of ants and insect herbivores associated with Anadenanthera macrocarpa (Mimosaceae). The latter is a myrmecophilous tree species from the Atlantic rainforest in south-eastern Brazil. Ants and insect herbivores were collected in 30 individuals of A. macrocarpa, ranging from young individuals (>3 m in height) to emergent trees (up to 40 m). Tree height was a strong indicator of other tree characteristics, including trunk diameter, crown height, crown volume, and number of bifurcations. Ants were collected using arboreal pitfall traps and beating, while insect herbivores with beating only. There was a significant increase in both abundance and species richness of ants and insect herbivores with an increase in tree height. In addition, tree height had a significant effect on the species composition of ants and insect herbivores. Assemblages of both taxa showed a nested organization pattern. The species found in small- and medium-sized trees, in general, consisted of a subset of the species found in the crowns and branches of larger, canopy or emergent trees. Thus, in A. macrocarpa, there was not a replacement of insect species with plant ontogeny. This finding is at variance with those conducted in tropical evergreen forests and which show a clear stratification between the understory and canopy insect faunas. Additional studies are needed to explain these contrasting patterns, but it is possible that differences in microclimate are involved. As the forest we studied is semi-deciduous, microclimatic gradients between the understory and the canopy habitat are probably less severe than in an evergreen forest, thus resulting in a lower turnover of species.