Food webs are built up with nested subwebs

Michio Kondoh, Satoshi Kato, Yoshikuni Sakato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Nested structure, in which specialists interact with subsets of species with which generalists interact, has been repeatedly found in networks of mutualistic interactions and thus is considered a general feature of mutualistic communities. However, it is uncertain how exclusive nested structure is for mutualistic communities since few studies have evaluated nestedness in other types of networks. Here, we show that 31 published food webs consist of bipartite subwebs that are as highly nested as mutualistic networks, contradicting the hypothesis that antagonistic interactions disfavor nested structure. Our findings suggest that nested networks may be a common pattern of communities that include resource-consumer interactions. In contrast to the hypothesis that nested structure enhances biodiversity in mutualistic communities, we also suggest that nested food webs increase niche overlap among consumers and thus prevent their coexistence. We discuss potential mechanisms for the emergence of nested structure in food webs and other types of ecological networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3123-3130
Number of pages8
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Nov
Externally publishedYes


  • Antagonistic network
  • Bipartite food web
  • Complementarity hypothesis
  • Complex network
  • Food web
  • Mutualism
  • Mutualistic network
  • Nestedness
  • Null model analysis
  • Trophic interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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