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Bird's nest ferns promote resource sharing by centipedes

Phillips, Josie; Chung, Arthur Y. C.; Edgecombe, Gregory D.; Ellwood, Farnon

Bird's nest ferns promote resource sharing by centipedes Thumbnail


Josie Phillips

Arthur Y. C. Chung

Gregory D. Edgecombe

Farnon Ellwood


Bird's nest ferns (Asplenium spp.) support large numbers of invertebrates, including centipedes. As top invertebrate predators, centipedes drive ecosystem function, for example, by regulating decomposer populations, but we know little of their ecology in forest canopies. We provide the first detailed observations of the diversity and structure of the centipede communities of bird's nest ferns, revealing the importance of these epiphytes as nurseries for centipedes. We collected 305 centipedes equating to ˜11,300 mg of centipede biomass from 44 bird's nest ferns (22 of which were from the high canopy and 22 from the low canopy) in primary tropical rainforest in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Most abundant were the Scolopendromorpha (n = 227 individuals), followed by the Geophilomorpha (n = 59), Lithobiomorpha (n = 14), and Scutigeromorpha (n = 5). Although we observed very little overlap in species between the forest strata, scolopendromorph centipedes dominated throughout the canopy. Null model analysis revealed no significant competitive interactions; on the contrary, we observed centipedes sharing nest sites within the ferns on three of the ten occasions that we found nests. All nests belonged to centipedes of the family Scolopendridae, which are typically aggressive, and usually show negative spatial association. This study reveals a diverse community of canopy centipedes, providing further evidence of the importance of bird's nest ferns to a wide range of animals, many of which use the ferns at critical life stages. Future conservation strategies should regard these ubiquitous epiphytes as umbrella species and protect them accordingly in landscape management decisions.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 19, 2019
Online Publication Date Nov 1, 2019
Publication Date Mar 1, 2020
Deposit Date Aug 20, 2020
Publicly Available Date Nov 2, 2020
Journal Biotropica
Print ISSN 0006-3606
Electronic ISSN 1744-7429
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 52
Issue 2
Pages 335-344
Keywords Asplenium epiphytes; Borneo; Chilopoda; competition; ecosystem function; forest canopies; predation; resource sharing
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