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Environmental Entomology


This investigation is the first to quantify the degree of habitat specialization for any species within the little-known order Embiidina. The lichen and plant communities found in the habitats of two sympatric species, one living on lichens encrusted on granite and another feeding in leaf litter, were characterized using a process of ordination and cluster analysis. Differences among 40 samples and their relationships to environmental factors were probed statistically using Spearman’s coefficient of rank correlations generated by comparing rank similarity matrices of the census sites. The lichen eater, Notoligotoma hardyi (Friederichs), was more abundant in areas with strong southern exposures and was associated with higher lichen abundance. They preferentially grazed on particular lichens, the first indication that an embiid shows specialization in feeding. The detritivore, Australembia incompta Ross, was closely associated with particular plant communities, especially those less susceptible to fire. Their colonies were more common in rockier, coastal areas and less abundant in grasslands and habitats dominated by Eucalyptus. Insight into ecological variation within the order can guide further exploration of other traits (such as silk structure and function and primitive social behavior) in this rarely studied group of insects.


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