[en] Termites represent one of the most abundant belowground animal taxa in tropical rainforests, where their species richness is much higher than in any other ecosystem. This high diversity in soil ecosystems is however difficult to explain by classical Hutchinsonian niche theory, as there is little evidence for spatial or temporal separation between species. Using δ13C and δ15N isotopic ratios, we tested if resource partitioning along the humification gradient occurs in neotropical soldierless termites of the Anoplotermes-group. Two distinct sites were investigated to check if interspecific differences are transposable between sites. Significant differences in δ15N were found between species of the Anoplotermes-group. Although some species displayed higher intersite δ15N variation than others, species-average δ15N values for both sites were highly correlated, showing that sympatric soldierless soil-feeding termites feed on distinct components of the soil. Our data also suggest that some species are more likely to shift along this gradient than others, in response to overall habitat conditions or to the presence of competitors. Feeding niche differentiation can therefore account for the high species richness and diversity of soldierless soil-feeding termites in neotropical rainforests.
Centre Interfacultaire de Recherches en Océanologie - MARE ; UMR EcoFoG (Université Antilles Guyane ) ; Evolutionary Biology and Ecology (ULB)
Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (Communauté française de Belgique) - F.R.S.-FNRS ; CNRS ; Czech Academy of Sciences