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The Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus) on Trinidad and Tobago: Habitat Niche Expansion of a Generalist Forager

Todd Keeler-Wolf
Oecologia
Vol. 70, No. 2 (Sep., 1986), pp. 309-317
Published by: Springer in cooperation with International Association for Ecology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4218050
Page Count: 9
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The Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus) on Trinidad and Tobago: Habitat Niche Expansion of a Generalist Forager
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Abstract

The Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus) is the most abundant insectivorous foliage-gleaning vertebrate in both closed rain forest and second growth on the island of Tobago. However, it occurs only in second growth on the larger neighbor island of Trinidad and on the neotropical mainland. Habitat niche expansion into Tobago forest has been facilitated by several behavioral traits which set the antshrike apart from other foliage-gleaners of forest and second growth on Tobago. The antshrike captures a higher diversity of foliage, branch & trunk, and terrestrial arthropods. It forages over a wider range of heights and under a wider variety of crown cover situations than any of its closest ecological counterparts on Tobago. The antshrike also takes a wider range of prey sizes and regularly uses additional food sources, including fruit and ants, not taken by other guild members. The broad foraging niche of the antshrike enables it to breed during many times of the year when other narrower-niched foliage-gleaners do not. On Trinidad, although the most common foliage-gleaner in second growth, the antshrike was not observed in adjacent closed rain forest. Several facts suggest that diffuse competition may be excluding antshrikes from Trinidad forest: 1) a general pattern of rarity or absence in other parts of its range where there are more guild members; 2) more species and individuals of foliage-gleaners with an overall higher biomass in Trinidad forest than in Tobago forest; 3) foliage arthropod resources are significantly (1.7 ×) lower in Trinidad forest than Tobago forest, suggesting that Trinidad forest guild members may be depressing the quantity of important resources for antshrikes; and 4) Trinidad forest species with the highest foraging similarity to antshrikes have a greater percentage of prey captures comprised of relatively specialized attack behaviors than do Tobago forest antshrikes. Foraging generalists like the Barred Antshrike appear to expand or contract their habitat niches depending upon the number of ecologically similar species in a given habitat. They may occur in high densities in habitats typically foreign to them provided competitors are few and there is sufficient food to supply their catholic requirements.

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