the Seeds of Science

Your source for the latest from the University of Toronto's department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

A new method to quantify species loss and gain

By Emily Drystek, EEB

Mite marooned on a rubber tree leaf.
Mite marooned on a rubber tree leaf.

Every year rubber trees drop their leaves. When the leaves grow back they are deserted islands waiting for a community of animals to set up home. By studying communities of mites on these leaves, ecologist Felipe Nuvoloni and his colleagues from University of Toronto and São Paulo State University hope to pin down how fast communities form, and in turn increase the success of current pest management practices for this important commercial crop.

The team found that the rate with which mites arrived changes over the growing season. For example, in the first month 10 mites arrived on average, while only two on average arrived by the end of the second month.

The variable pattern of mite arrival suggests that if a newly created island was colonised it may take twice as long for 20 species to arrive than 10 species. Nuvoloni’s results also show that this pattern of colonisation can be found on any two rubber trees hundreds of kilometres apart.  In future work, the team hope to explain why the rate of colonisation changes throughout the growing season.

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This entry was posted on February 12, 2014 by in News and tagged , , .