Predicting trophic relations in ecological networks: a test of the Allometric Diet Breadth Model

J Theor Biol. 2011 Jun 21;279(1):161-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2010.06.040. Epub 2010 Jul 13.


Few food web theory hypotheses/predictions can be readily tested using likelihoods of reproducing the data. Simple probabilistic models for food web structure, however, are an exception as their likelihoods were recently derived. Here I test the performance of a more complex model for food web structure that is grounded in the allometric scaling of interactions with body size and the theory of optimal foraging (Allometric Diet Breadth Model-ADBM). This deterministic model has been evaluated by measuring the fraction of trophic relations it correctly predicts. I contrasted this value with that produced by simpler models based on body sizes and found that the quantitative information on allometric scaling and optimal foraging does not significantly increase model fit. Also, I present a method to compute the p-value for the fraction of trophic interactions correctly predicted by the ADBM, or any other model, with respect to three probabilistic models. I find that the ADBM predicts significantly more links than random graphs, but other models can outperform it. Although optimal foraging and allometric scaling may improve our understanding of food webs, the ADBM needs to be modified or replaced to find support in the data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Size*
  • Diet*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Food Chain*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Probability