Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Omnivorous ants are less carnivorous and more protein-limited in exotic plantations


Tsang, Toby Pak Nok; Guénard, Benoit; Bonebrake, Timothy Carlton (2020), Data from: Omnivorous ants are less carnivorous and more protein-limited in exotic plantations, Dryad, Dataset,


1. Diets of species are crucial in determining how they influence food webs and community structures, and how their populations are regulated by different bottom-up processes. Omnivores are able to adjust their diet flexibly according to environmental conditions, such that their impacts on food webs and communities, and the macronutrients constraining their population, can be plastic. In particular, omnivore diets are known to be influenced by prey availability, which exhibit high spatial and temporal variation.

2. To examine the plasticity of diet and macronutrient limitation in omnivores, we compared trophic positions, macronutrient preferences and food exploitation rates of omnivorous ants in invertebrate-rich (secondary forests) and invertebrate-poor (Lophostemon confertus plantations) habitats. We hypothesized that omnivorous ants would have lower trophic positions, enhanced protein-limitation and reduced food exploitation rates in L. confertus plantations relative to secondary forests.

3. We performed cafeteria experiments to examine changes in macronutrient limitation and food exploitation rates. We also sampled ants and conducted stable isotope analyses to investigate dietary shifts between these habitats.

4. We found that conspecific ants were less carnivorous and had higher preferences for protein-rich food in L. confertus plantations compared to secondary forests. However, ant assemblages did not exhibit increased preferences for protein-rich food in L. confertus plantations. At the species-level, food exploitation rates varied idiosyncratically between habitats. At the assemblage-level, food exploitation rates were significantly reduced in L. confertus plantations.

5. Our results reveal that plantation establishments alter the diet and foraging behavior of omnivorous ants. Such changes suggest that omnivorous ants in plantations will have reduced top-down impacts on prey communities but also see an increased importance of protein as a bottom-up force in constraining omnivore population sizes.


The data were collected via cafeteria experiments and stable isotope analyses.

Usage Notes

Please find the readme.txt file for details. 


HKU Postgraduate Studentship

HKU Postgraduate Studentship