Cryptic biodiversity effects: Importance of functional redundancy revealed through addition of food web complexity

Stacy M. Philpott, Gabriella L. Pardee, David J. Gonthier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Interactions between predators and the degree of functional redundancy among multiple predator species may determine whether herbivores experience increased or decreased predation risk. Specialist parasites can modify predator behavior, yet rarely have cascading effects on multiple predator species and prey been evaluated. We examined influences of specialist phorid parasites (Pseudacteon spp.) on three predatory ant species and herbivores in a coffee agroecosystem. Specifically, we examined whether changes in ant richness affected fruit damage by the coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei) and whether phorids altered multi-predator effects. Each ant species reduced borer damage, and without phorids, increasing predator richness did not further decrease borer damage. However, with phorids, activity of one ant species was reduced, indicating that the presence of multiple ant species was necessary to limit borer damage. In addition, phorid presence revealed synergistic effects of multiple ant species, not observed without the presence of this parasite. Thus, a trait-mediated cascade resulting from a parasite-induced predator behavioral change revealed the importance of functional redundancy, predator diversity, and food web complexity for control of this important pest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)992-1001
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Azteca instabilis
  • Biodiversity
  • Biological control
  • Coffee agroforest
  • Ecosystem function
  • Multi-predator effects
  • Procryptocerus hylaeus
  • Pseudacteon
  • Pseudomyrmex simplex
  • Trait-mediated interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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