Bird's nest ferns promote resource sharing in centipedes

How to cite this record

Phillips, J. W. and Ellwood, M. D. F. (2019) Bird's nest ferns promote resource sharing in centipedes. UWE,

UWE Harvard citation (for UWE users)

Phillips, J. W. and Ellwood, M. D. F. (2019) Bird's nest ferns promote resource sharing in centipedes. UWE data repository [online]. Available from: [Accessed 17 August 2022].

Project Title

Bird's nest ferns promote resource sharing in centipedes

Brief summary of project

Bird’s nest ferns (Asplenium spp.) support large numbers of invertebrates, including centipedes. As top invertebrate predators, centipedes drive ecosystem function, for example by regulating decomposer populations, but we know little of their ecology in forest canopies. We provide the first detailed observations of the diversity and structure of the centipede communities of bird’s nest ferns, revealing the importance of these epiphytes as nurseries for centipedes. We collected 305 centipedes equating to ~11,300 mg of centipede biomass from 44 bird’s nest ferns (22 of which were from the high canopy, and 22 from the low canopy) in primary tropical rainforest in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Most abundant were the Scolopendromorpha (n = 227 individuals), followed by the Geophilomorpha (n = 59), Lithobiomorpha (n = 14), and Scutigeromorpha (n = 5). Although we observed very little overlap in species between the forest strata, scolopendromorph centipedes dominated throughout the canopy. Null model analysis revealed no significant competitive interactions; on the contrary, we observed centipedes sharing nest sites within the ferns on three of the ten occasions that we found nests. All nests belonged to centipedes of the family Scolopendridae, which are typically aggressive, and usually show negative spatial association. This study reveals a diverse community of canopy centipedes, providing further evidence of the importance of bird’s nest ferns to a wide range of animals, many of which use the ferns at critical life stages. Future conservation strategies should regard these ubiquitous epiphytes as umbrella species and protect them accordingly in landscape management decisions.




Item Type: Dataset
Methodology: We worked in primary tropical rainforest in Danum Valley Conservation Area (DVCA) in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo in April 2018. We inserted climbing lines into the highest branches and accessed the canopy using Double Rope Technique (DRT). We collected 44 ferns with leaf rosette diameters of 30–60 cm from the forest canopy. Of these ferns, 22 came from the high canopy (~40 m) and 22 came from the low canopy (~4 m). All ferns were of similar size (fresh weights ~4 kg) and hosted by Parashorea tomentella trees (Sym.) Meijer (Dipterocarpaceae). We plucked the ferns from their attachment points and placed them into heavy duty, transparent plastic bags. Clear bags gave advance warning of centipedes emerging from the ferns. The bags were sealed and lowered from the trees using a pulley system. At the field centre, ferns were removed from their bags, dissected and sorted by hand. All centipedes were placed into 75% ethanol solution. Hand sorting allowed all centipede nests to be recorded. A brood nest was confirmed by the presence of an adult centipede protecting a clutch of eggs or young juveniles. The remains of the fern soil core were placed in Winkler bags for four days.Fern soils were checked upon removal from the Winkler bags to ensure that any remaining animals were collected. All specimens were transferred to clean ethanol solution and stored at -20ºC before being exported to the UK in WhirlpacTM bags. Identifications were performed using the primary taxonomic literature and relevant keys. Individual body mass (dry mass) was determined using body size-weight regressions (Richardson et al. 2000). Body length was measured from the tip of head to the end of the last trunk segment, excluding the posterior legs. Measurements were taken to the nearest 0.1mm using callipers or a calibrated graticule under the microscope. Power law models were used to establish size – weight relationships of the form y = a (x)b, with y the dry weight (mg), x the body length and b the regression coefficient (Richardson et al. 2000). Total biomass was calculated as the dry weight of all individual centipedes expressed in milligrams.
Data Collection Time Period: April 2018
Language of the Dataset Collection: English
Creators: Phillips, J. W. and Ellwood, M. D. F.
UWE Faculty/Department: Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences > Department of Applied Sciences
UWE Research Centres/Institutes: Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences > Centre for Research in Biosciences
Depositing User: J. Phillips
Date Deposited: 22 Aug 2019 07:35
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2019 07:35

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