Mixed-species aggregations in arthropods

Insect Sci. 2019 Feb;26(1):2-19. doi: 10.1111/1744-7917.12502. Epub 2017 Oct 5.


This review offers the first synthesis of the research on mixed-species groupings of arthropods and highlights the behavioral and evolutionary questions raised by such behavior. Mixed-species groups are commonly found in mammals and birds. Such groups are also observed in a large range of arthropod taxa independent of their level of sociality. Several examples are presented to highlight the mechanisms underlying such groupings, particularly the evidence for phylogenetic proximity between members that promotes cross-species recognition. The advantages offered by such aggregates are described and discussed. These advantages can be attributed to the increase in group size and could be identical to those of nonmixed groupings, but competition-cooperation dynamics might also be involved, and such effects may differ between homo- and heterospecific groups. We discuss three extreme cases of interspecific recognition that are likely involved in mixed-species groups as vectors for cross-species aggregation: tolerance behavior between two social species, one-way mechanism in which one species is attractive to others and two-way mechanism of mutual attraction. As shown in this review, the study of mixed-species groups offers biologists an interesting way to explore the frontiers of cooperation-competition, including the process of sympatric speciation.

Keywords: collective behavior; complex system; cross-species recognition; self-organization; sociality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Distribution*
  • Animals
  • Arthropods*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Ecosystem
  • Social Behavior