UC San Diego
Functional traits and trophic ecology of Santa Cruz Island native ants
- Author(s): Schat, Jillian
- Advisor(s): Holway, David A
- et al.
Functional traits are popular tool to assess functional ecology. Functional traits determine how an organism interacts with its community. The utility of functional traits has been well documented in plant and vertebrate systems but has not been as thoroughly applied to invertebrate systems. Morphology is a common functional trait used to predict ecology in vertebrate and plant models. This study tested the ability of morphology to predict trophic ecology of native ants from Santa Cruz Island. Trophic interactions represent a large portion of inter- and intraspecific interactions within a community. Analyzing these interactions is key to understanding ecosystem functioning. To assess trophic ecology, I used stable isotope analysis of δ15N and δ13C as well as predation and scavenging assays. To assess morphology, I measured 27 morphological traits from eight species of ant. The 10 most cited measurements were analyzed using linear regressions to assess the relationships between morphology and trophic ecology. Significant relationships exist between morphology and stable isotope values but not between morphology and predation or scavenging ability. The lack of relationship between morphology and predation or scavenging ability could be due to environmental conditions or due to morphology’s inability to predict predation or scavenging behavior. In future works, I would perform phylogenetic corrections to account for relatedness between ant species and apply similar observational studies to other ant community assemblages.