Beetle assemblages of indigenous and alien decomposing fruit in subtropical Durban, South Africa
Ecological theory predicts that insect assemblages on indigenous plants will be more diverse than those on alien plants. However, this theory refers primarily to herbivores, and its applicability to decomposers is unclear. Here, we compare beetle assemblages from the fallen fruit of the two most common plants producing large fleshy fruit at our study site in Durban, South Africa: one indigenous African plant (the toad tree, Tabernaemontana ventricosa, Apocynaceae) and one invasive tropical American one (the granadilla, Passiflora edulis, Passifloraceae), at various stages of the decomposition process, thus spanning a continuum between herbivory and detritivory. Beetles found on the two plants included both alien (some categorized as pests of stored fruit) and indigenous species (including some localized endemics). We found that the mean diversity and abundance were not significantly different between the two plant species (with nine beetles from four morphospecies in the average sample) and that the beetle assemblages from the two plant species largely overlap. Statistical analyses suggested that other factors such as stage of fruit decomposition and seasonality could have greater influence on diversity and abundance than the provenance of the plant species. We conclude that insect–plant interactions in the emerging ecosystems that include indigenous and alien species in both groups are complex and that the importance of interactions between species of different provenances may have previously been underestimated.