• Kleber Del Claro

Plant-Animal Interactions - Source of Biodiversity - New Book - listen the podcast!

Biotic interactions are ubiquitous and have shaped the evolution of Earth’s amazing

biodiversity. Undoubtedly, plant-animal interactions have structured the

majority of ecological networks and the biodiversity of interactions therein

through evolutionary time. From antagonisms to mutualisms, plant-animal interactions

are basic pieces of the evolutionary puzzle underpinning natural systems.

Comprehending these relationships in all of their multidisciplinary aspects is fundamental to the future of life on a planet where negative human interference in

natural systems is growing at an alarming pace.

Plant-Animal Interactions: Source of Biodiversity is a collaborative approach to

this huge challenge, offering researchers and students new views, without leaving

behind basic information. This book is an effort to pave the way for scientists interested

in improving our knowledge of how plant-animal interactions shape biodiversity.

Our book calls you to join us in studying and preserving plant-animal

interactions, because they are sources of biodiversity. The book covers the most

important theoretical aspects of this line of study, considering classical, basic, and

naturalistic knowledge, but also presents advanced and applied approaches. Thus,

in the opening chapter, we present a general view of plant-animal interactions. As

editors, we considered it important to provide the foundations of plant-animal

interactions from an evolutionary approach. A great deal of research in ecology

and evolution has examined chemical mediation of plant-animal interactions.

Thus, in 7 Chap. 2, Lee A. Dyer and Chris S. Jeffrey discuss classical studies

focused on plant compounds that reduce or deter insect damage (herbivory) and

directly or indirectly affect secondary consumers. Here, the authors present a new

view considering two focal theoretical frameworks that drive investigations of

chemically mediated interactions, with a focus on phytochemical mixtures: coevolution

and trophic interaction theory. This approach enables us to proceed to the

field of herbivory with Robert J. Marquis and Renan F. Moura, who, in 7 Chap. 3,

discuss traits that enable plants to escape from their herbivores but have not been

formerly considered part of plant resistance theory. They will brilliantly convince

you that escape from herbivores can be used to effectively reduce herbivore pressure

in agricultural systems, and that escape also contributes to biodiversity maintenance

in preserved ecosystems. This chapter presents a full new perspective on

the antagonistic relationships between plants and animals. However, to understand

how plant defense against herbivory evolves, it is necessary to characterize the

genetic underpinnings of resistance traits, quantify genetic variation in defense

trait production, and characterize how natural selection is acting on these traits.

We thank Liza M. Holeski for giving us 7 Chap. 4, an amazing review of the

genetic basis of plant-herbivore

interactions and the evolutionary and ecological

genetics of plant resistance against herbivory. Different aspects of defense against

herbivory were considered in the previous chapters, and 7 Chap. 5 continues this

by presenting the role of biotic defenses in plant-animal interactions. Biotic

defenses are relationships in which one organism (usually a plant or trophobiont

herbivore) attracts predators of its own enemies. In 7 Chap. 5, a team of young

biologists—Renan F. Moura, Eva Colberg, Estevão Alves-Silva, Isamara Mendes-

Silva, Roberth Fagundes, and Vanessa Stefani, joined by me (the old guy!)—deeply

discuss all types of biotic defense systems and their mechanisms. Full of examples

and exploring a very useful tool, experimental manipulation, this chapter illustrates

how conditional the outcomes of biotic interactions may be, and how we still

are in the infancy of these studies.

Starting with a holistic view of plant-animal interactions and their impact on

biodiversity, the first five chapters of this book present the chemical and genetic

aspects of plant-animal interactions and explore the most antagonistic relationships

among these organisms, herbivory, and defenses against herbivores. However,

recent reviews in plant-animal interactions suggest that mutualistic relationships

(positive results to interacting organisms) are probably the strongest forces generating

biodiversity. We will return to this issue later, after we present and competently

exemplify the two main mutualistic relationships between plants and animals:

pollination and seed dispersal. The following two chapters are very similar in structure,

starting by covering the natural history and basic aspects of the main animal

groups involved in these interactions, and then presenting new pathways for those

interested in these lines of research. In 7 Chap. 6, Helena Maura Torezan-Silingardi,

Ilse Silberbauer-Gottesberger, and Gerhard Gottesberger draw on their

backgrounds in pollination, and in 7 Chap. 7, Richard T. Corlett covers seed dispersal

and frugivory; these colleagues fulfilled the difficult mission of synthesizing

in each of these chapters issues worthy of a whole book. In both chapters the

authors go beyond characterizing and illustrating (with marvelous images) the

most important mutualistic plant-animal interactions, also alerting us to the drastic

problems caused by human impacts in natural systems. The reductions in populations

and diversity of pollinators and seed dispersers are contributing to an

enormous loss of ecological services, putting human food security at risk.

Plant belowground interactions with soil microbes alter plant fitness and physiology,

affecting the performance of plant-associated aboveground organisms.

Although this issue is clear to all biologists, especially field researchers, these

aspects have only been superficially explored in previous books related to the evolutionary

ecology of plant-animal interactions. So, we thank Frédérique Reverchon

and Alfonso Méndez-Bravo in 7 Chap. 8 for giving us a better understanding

of the ecological interactions occurring within the phytobiome and their impacts

on plant-animal interactions and associated biodiversity. This chapter opens up

discussion into the main examples of facilitation in plant-animal interactions, that

is, how these interactions can modify the environment by enlarging the niche for

opportunistic organisms. In 7 Chap. 9, an emerging group of very competent

young ecologists, headed by Eduardo S. Calixto, and Danilo F. B. dos Santos,

Diego V. Anjos, and Eva Colberg, discuss the concept of ecosystem engineering.

This chapter addresses the concepts, applications, biodiversity implications, and

future perspectives for the study of ecosystem engineers, especially regarding plantarthropod


With these nine initial chapters, we are sure that the book provides all the

basic, updated, and useful knowledge, including new approaches, for anyone

interested in getting started in studying plant-animal interactions or settling previous

fundamental questions. In the final part we have four chapters that place

this book even further than the previous ones. In 7 Chap. 10, Pedro Luna and

Wesley Dáttilo start by explaining how interactive communities and populations

generate organized networks and how these ecological networks vary over space

and time. They close the chapter by calling attention to the importance of plantanimal

networks in understanding the mechanisms and processes driving the

geographic mosaic of coevolution, as proposed by John N. Thompson. This

chapter complements the initial chapter in considering the geographic mosaic of

coevolution theory as a key approach for understanding of origins and maintenance

of biodiversity of interactions. Next, Judith L. Bronstein in 7 Chap. 11

presents a new and very intriguing question in plant-animal interactions. She

starts by considering that mutualisms are not only present, but are common and

prominent interactions in every habitat on Earth. Thus, in a chapter full of wonderful

examples from pollination, biotic defenses, and other mutualisms, she proposes

an underlying rationale for why biological diversity tends to accumulate

around mutualisms. And is mutualism a source of evolutionary innovation?

7 Chap. 12, written by Rodrigo A. S. Pereira and Finn Kjellberg, explores this

question by presenting examples of mutualisms that allowed insects and/or

plants to expand their ecological niches. From a naturalistic up to a theoretical

view, this book illustrates how plant-animal interactions are sources of biodiversity.

However, in 7 Chap. 13, Kleber Del-Claro and Rodolfo Dirzo close the

book with a very disturbing topic. They discuss how in the Anthropocene, due to

defaunation and deforestation, human interference in the structure of ecological

networks may be forcing mass, global disruptions of ecological interactions,

potentially leading to the end of the biodiversity of interactions.

All books have a singular history. Plant-Animal Interactions: Source of Biodiversity

has a history mediated by a worldwide crisis, the SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19

or simply the coronavirus pandemic. In normal times it is not easy to edit or to

write a book or a book chapter. In a year of restrictions, suffering, loss of loved

ones, a time when life was turned upside down, working was even harder. We thank

each one of our authors for all of your dedication, resilience, and love of science.

We know how difficult it was. Some of us have been closed in at home during all

this time. Some of us lost loved ones and friends. One has a new baby (a piece of

good news!). One retired and had to move to a new city during the pandemic crisis.

One was forced to quarantine in a hotel room for 2 weeks. One housed the entire

family of a colleague during the fires in California. We are sincerely thankful to you


We, in name of the whole group, thank our financial agencies, universities and

employers. We sincerely thank our editor João Pildervasser and the marvelous

Springer Nature team of collaborators.

Our very special acknowledgement goes to Ms. Eva Colberg for kindly revising

the English of 7 Chaps. 1, 5, 6, 9, and 10. There are no words to thank her collaboration.

We also thank our families for their support and patience. We thank each mutualistic

organism living inside our bodies and cells for our lives, and plants and

animals for their interactions that become this still wonderful world.

Kleber Del-Claro

Helena Maura Torezan-Silingardi

Uberlândia, MG, Brazil

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