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Oviposition Site Selection Structures Niche Partitioning Among Coccinellid Species in a Tropical Ecosystem

Sicsú, P R, Macedo, R H, Sujii, E R
Neotropical entomology 2015 v.44 no.5 pp. 430-438
Aphidoidea, Cycloneda, Eriopis connexa, Harmonia axyridis, Hippodamia convergens, adults, biological control, community structure, competitive exclusion, correspondence analysis, ecosystems, eggs, females, habitat preferences, larvae, natural enemies, niches, oviposition sites, Brazil
The competitive exclusion hypothesis suggests that coexisting related species using similar resources in nature should partition their realized niches. This hypothesis has direct implications for conservation strategies using biological control, taking into consideration the shifts caused by the introduction of natural enemies in a local community. Such introductions typically lead to disruptions in species interactions and interfere with community structure. In this study, we asked whether community structure of aphidophagous lady beetles is determined by the distribution of specific plants and aphids. To answer this question, we describe the distribution patterns of lady beetles (adults, larvae, and egg clusters) relative to plants and aphids in eight crop ecosystems in a central region of Brazil. We used canonical correspondence analysis to evaluate lady beetle distribution relative to selected habitat variables. Cycloneda sanguinea L., Hippodamia convergens Guérin-Méneville, Harmonia axyridis Pallas, and Eriopis connexa Germar (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) differed in their use of plants and aphids. The association of egg clusters with specific plants/aphids was stronger than that of larvae or adults. In conclusion, lady beetle species occupied different niches, indicating different patterns of habitat use that may facilitate their coexistence in crop ecosystems. Furthermore, immature individuals had more specific environmental associations than adults, likely because female choice of oviposition sites influences their distribution and thus lady beetle community structure.