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Long-term studies of two-species interactions under field conditions are unusual; most long-term field studies are of single species dynamics (1-6). Concurrent long-term studies on the dynamics of the same two interacting species in different locations are very rare. This result has led to the tacit assumption that different cases of the same two-species interaction would involve essentially quantitative differences (e.g., context-specific differences in the numeric values of demographic parameters like fecundity or death rates). Here, we show that for one of the best-known two-species systems (ragwort and cinnabar moth), this finding does not hold. The interaction between the plant and its herbivore is fundamentally different in coastal dunes in The Netherlands and in grasslands in Southeast England. In the first case, the dynamics are cyclic and the interaction involves both direct and delayed density dependence; in the second case, the insect has little impact on plant dynamics and there are no time lags in density dependence. The difference is caused by differences in the importance of seed-limitation in plant recruitment in the two locations.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





14932 - 14936


Animals, Ecology, Ecosystem, Models, Statistical, Moths, Plants, Population Dynamics, Senecio, Time Factors