Ontogenetic antagonism–mutualism coupling: perspectives on resilience of stage-structured communities

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Organisms typically change their diets ontogenetically. Recent studies have shown that an ontogenetic diet shift undermines the resilience of stage-structured food webs. Here, we study the integration of stage-structured food-web theory into theory of hybrid community (i.e. mixture of different interaction types), considering that not only diet but also interaction type often changes because of ontogenetic niche shift (e.g. the metamorphosis of pollinating insects, in which juveniles and adults are herbivores and pollinators, respectively). We developed and mathematically analysed a one-consumer two-resource model in which juvenile and adult consumers utilise different resources as antagonists and mutualists, respectively. Model analyses illustrated that the consumer either goes extinct or coexists with the resources depending on the initial condition when the resources have low carrying capacities while their community dynamics always converge to a single steady state when the resources have high carrying capacities. These dynamic features are different from those of the corresponding purely antagonistic module in previous studies, in which the consumer always goes extinct for low resource carrying capacities while the dynamics converge to either juvenile-dominated or adult-dominated state depending on the initial conditions for high resource carrying capacities. Taken together, we can suggest that ontogenetic antagonism–mutualism coupling is stabilising in that it increases the potential for species coexistence in unproductive environments while improving community resilience in productive environments. Further, these effects are generally robust to interaction nonlinearity. Beyond the previous concern of the instability in stage-structured food-webs, our results suggest that antagonism–mutualism coupling can play a crucial role in stabilising stage-structured hybrid (e.g. plant–animal) communities under environmental changes. The present study represents an important first step in understanding how interaction type diversity can mediate the dynamics of stage-structured communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-363
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Mar

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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