Preprint / Version 1

Generalist diets allows opportunism behavior to engage in cleaning interactions among birds and large mammals




cleaning symbiosis, opportunism, diet diversity, birds, complex network, network centrality


Cleaning interactions are interspecific associations in which cleaners  benefit from the hosts by feeding on parasites, injured tissues, or blood. All around the globe there is a remarkable diversity of birds that behave as cleaners of large mammals. Here we investigated the drivers shaping the organization of networks formed by cleaning birds and host mammals. We used two cleaner-host networks, one from Brazilian openlands and the other one from African openlands, to explore the relationship between diet generalism and cleaning behavior. We hypothesize that cleaning interactions are often opportunistic and, as a consequence, we expect that generalist species are the main components of cleaner-host networks. We first contrast the diet diversity of cleaner species with their closed related species. For 18 of 26 bird families, cleaners show higher diet diversity than closely-related, non-cleaning species.  Then we explored if birds with higher diversity diets are the central species of the cleaner-host networks. The results show that there is no apparent correlation between species centrality in the networks and their diet diversity. We suggest that generalism allows opportunist species to engage in cleaning interactions, but the importance of a cleaner species is affected by other attributes, such as abundance and behavioral traits associated with cleaning behavior. In a broader perspective, these results suggest that the factors that may allow species to participate in ecological networks are not the same that modulate their role in the same networks.


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How to Cite

Acquaviva, J., & Guimarães Junior, P. R. (2022). Generalist diets allows opportunism behavior to engage in cleaning interactions among birds and large mammals. In SciELO Preprints.


Biological Sciences