Trophic interactions among invertebrates in termitaria in the African savanna: A stable isotope approach

Sara N. De Visser, Bernd P. Freymann, Hans Schnyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


1. Termites (Isoptera) in tropical savannas are known as ecosystem engineers, affecting the spatial and temporal distribution of water, carbon, cations, and nutrients through their mound structures. Their mounds, however, also offer habitation to diverse taxa and feeding guilds of other invertebrates; a keystone role that has not been properly quantified. 2. The aim of this study was to explore the ecosystem role of termitaria in determining invertebrate diversity and their potential trophic interactions. We used stable isotopes to distinguish termite-feeding invertebrates from invertebrates merely living in termite mounds under field conditions. 3. The results suggest that inquiline spiders (Arachnida) do not feed on termites directly, but on other invertebrates within the termitaria that are termitophagous, elevating the spiders three trophic levels higher than the termites. 4. This study is the first to demonstrate food web interactions among inquiline invertebrates with a stable isotope approach. It provides evidence that termites play a keystone role in the system by providing habitat for various, trophically interacting invertebrates. These results illustrate a rather unexplored ecosystem property of savanna termites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)758-764
Number of pages7
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Arachnida
  • Food web
  • Inquiline
  • Serengeti National Park
  • Termites
  • Trophic level
  • δC
  • δN


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