Classical ecological theory posits that species partition resources such that each species occupies a unique resource niche. In general, the availability of more resources allows more species to co-occur. Thus, a strong relationship between communities of consumers and their resources is expected. However, correlations may be influenced by other layers in the food web, or by the environment. Here we show, by studying the relationship between communities of consumers (land snails) and individual diets (from seed plants), that there is in fact no direct, or at most a weak but negative, relationship. However, we found that the diversity of the individual microbiome positively correlates with both consumer community diversity and individual diet diversity in three target species. Moreover, these correlations were affected by various environmental variables, such as anthropogenic activity, habitat island size, and a possibly important nutrient source, guano runoff from nearby caves. Our results suggest that the microbiome and the environment explain the absence of correlations between diet and consumer community diversity. Hence, we advocate that microbiome inventories are routinely added to any community dietary analysis, which our study shows can be done with relatively little extra effort. Our approach presents the tools to quickly obtain an overview of the relationships between consumers and their resources. We anticipate our approach to be useful for ecologists and environmentalists studying different communities in a local food web.
- community ecology