Mike’s Favorites:

Papers are stories with backstories. Here are a handful of mine that I really like, and a little about why. 

ButtonKaspari M and A Joern (1993) Prey choice in three grassland birds: reevaluating opportunism. Oikos 68:414-430 

In the late 70s and early 80s John Wiens and John Rotenberry wrote an influential set of papers suggesting grassland birds ate pretty much whatever they encountered. After spending much of the early 80’s watching birds and catching bugs in the Sandhills, Tony and I rebutted that notion. 

ButtonKaspari M & M Byrne (1995) Caste allocation in litter Pheidole: lessons from plant defense theory. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 37:255-263

The first paper on my favorite genus, and one that tried to extend theory from another field to my new favorite taxon: ants. Note to self: if you want myrmecologists to read a paper, make sure the word “ants” is in the title. 

ButtonKaspari M, S. O’Donnell, & L Alonso (2000) Three energy variables predict ant abundance at a geographic scale. Proc of the Royal Society B 267:485-490

The first paper out of our “49 ant communities” project that established what was to be our lab’s modus operandi: test theory on a geographic scale by going into the field and collecting the data.

ButtonYanoviak, S & M Kaspari (2000) Community structure and the habitat templet: ants in the tropical forest canopy and litter. Oikos 89:259-266

The first in a long productive collaboration with Steve Yanoviak that started us integrating the physical structure of the environment and stoichiometry of ant and food supply to predict how ant communities behave. 

ButtonKaspari M, M Yuan, & L Alonso. (2003) Spatial grain and gradients of ant species richness. American Naturalist 161: 459-477

Evaluating the big biogeographic hypotheses of the day with hard-won data.  

ButtonKaspari M. (2008) Knowing your warblers: thoughts on the 50th anniversary of MacArthur (1958). Bulletin of the Ecology Society of America 

How often do you get to honor an academic grandfather and present to the world a piece of art that captures the idea of MacArthur’s Warblers? Debby Kaspari’s illustration is now used to teach MacArthur’s work all over the world. 

ButtonKaspari, M, S Yanoviak, R Dudley. (2008) On the biogeography of salt limitation: a study of ant communities. PNAS 105: 17848-17851

When those ants began to swarm our NaCl baits it was one of the most exciting things I had ever seen. The trio of Dudley, Kaspari, and Yanoviak have always managed to combine travel to interesting places with unexpected discovery. All our salt work started with this one.


Kaspari, M. (2019) In a globally warming world, insects act locally to manipulate their own microclimate. — Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116: 5220-5222

Weiser, MD, D Ning, V Buzzard, ST Michaletz, Z He, BJ Enquist, RB Waide, J Zhou, M Kaspari. (2019) Thermal disruption of soil bacterial assemblages decreases diversity and assemblage similarity. — Ecosphere 10: e02598.

Welti, EAR, NJ Sanders, KM deBeurs, M Kaspari (2019) A distributed experiment demonstrates widespread sodium limitation in grassland food webs. Ecology 100:e02600   see also The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 2019-04 DOI: 10.1002/bes2.1509

Kaspari, M, Kirsten M deBeurs (2019) On the geography of activity: productivity but not temperature constrains discovery rates by ectotherm consumers . Ecosphere 10(2):e02536. 10.1002/ecs2.2536.


Bujan, J, SJ Wright, M Kaspari (2018) Biogeochemistry and forest composition shape nesting patterns of a dominant canopy ant. Oecologia 2018:1-10.

Prather, RM, KA Roeder, NJ Sanders, M Kaspari (2018) Using metabolic and thermal ecology to predict temperature dependent ecosystem activity: a test with prairie ants. Ecology 99:2113-2121.

Roeder, KA, DV Roeder, M Kaspari (2018) The role of temperature in competition and persistence of an invaded ant assemblage. Ecological Entomology 43:774-781.

Lucas, J, N Clay, M Kaspari (2018) Nutrient transfer supports a beneficial relationship between the canopy ant, Azteca trigona, and its host tree. Ecological Entomology.

Wright, JS, BJ Turner, J Yavitt, K Harms, M Kaspari, E Tanner, J Bujan, E Griffin, J Major, S Pasquini, M Seldrake, M Garcia (2018) Plant responses to fertilization experiments in lowland,species-rich, tropical forests. Ecology 99:1129-1138.

Roeder, K A, D V Roeder, M Kaspari (2018) Disturbance mediates homogenization of above and belowground invertebrate communities. Environmental Entomology 47:545-550.

Sheldon, K, M Kaspari, N Sanders, R Huey (2018) Fifty years of mountain passes: a perspective on Dan Janzen’s classic paper. The American Naturalist 191: 553-565.

Weiser, M, N Swenson, B Enquist, S Michaletz, R Waide, J Zhou, M Kaspari (2018) Taxonomic decomposition of the latitudinal gradient(s) in species diversity of North American floras. Journal of Biogeography 45:418–428.


Clay, NA, R Lehrter, M Kaspari (2017) Toward a geography of omnivory: Omnivores increase carnivory when sodium is limiting. Journal of Animal Ecology 2017: 1-9. Winner of the British Ecological Society’s Elton Prize for best paper by a young investigator.

Kaspari, M, J Bujan, MD Weiser, D Ning, ST Michaletz, Z He, BJ Enquist, RB Waide, J Zhou, and SJ Wright (2017) Biogeochemistry and soil diversity: multiple elements shape richness of prokaryotes, fungi, and invertebrates in a Panama forest. Ecology 98:2019-2028. See A slightly less paradoxical paradox.

Weiser, MD, ST Michaletz, V Buzzard, Y Deng, Z He, L Shen, BJ Enquist, RB Waide, J Zhou, M Kaspari (2017) Toward a theory for diversity gradients: the abundance-adaptation hypothesis. Ecography doi:10.1111/ecog.02314

K Roeder, M Kaspari (2017) From cryptic herbivore to predator: stable isotopes reveal consistent variability in trophic levels in an ant population. Ecology 98:297-303.

Kaspari, M., K Roeder, B Benson, MD Weiser, N Sanders (2017) Sodium co-limits and catalyzes macronutrients in a prairie food web. Ecology 98:315-320. See Herbivores like a little salt with their protein.

Lucas J, B Bill, B Stevenson, M Kaspari (2017) The microbiome of the ant-built home: the microbial communities of a tropical arboreal ant and its nest. Ecosphere 8: e01639



Bujan J, JP Wright, M Kaspari (2016) Biogeochemical drivers of Neotropical ant activity and diversity, Ecosphere 7: e01597

Bujan, J, SP Yanoviak, and M Kaspari (2016) Desiccation resistance in tropical insects: causes and mechanisms underlying variability in a Panama ant community. Ecology and Evolution 6282-6291

Kaspari, M, JS Powers (2016) Biogeochemistry and Geographical Ecology: embracing all 25 elements required to build organisms The American Naturalist 188 S1.

Kaspari, M, NA Clay, J Lucas, S Revzen, Adam Kay, SP Yanoviak (2016) Thermal adaptation and phosphorus shape thermal performance in an assemblage of rainforest ants, Ecology 97:1038-1047.


Michaletz, ST, MD Weiser, M Kaspari, BR Helliker, BH Enquist (2015) Plant Homeothermy: Energetics, trait-environment interactions, and carbon economics Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 30: 714-724

Helms, JA, M Kaspari. (2015) Reproduction-dispersal tradeoffs in ant queens. Insectes Sociaux. DOI 10.1007/s00040-015-0391-9

Kaspari, M, NA Clay, J Lucas, SP Yanoviak, A Kay. (2015) Thermal adaptation generates a diversity of thermal limits in a rainforest ant community. Global Change Biology.


Clay, NA, D. Donoso, M Kaspari. (2014) Urine as a source of sodium increases decomposition in an inland but not coastal tropical forest. Oecologia.

ButtonKaspari, M (2014) Road salt offers insights into the connections between diet and neural development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 111: 10033-10034.

ButtonClay, NA, SP Yanoviak, M Kaspari. (2014) Short-term sodium inputs attract microbi-detritivores and their predators. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 75: 248-253.

ButtonShik, JZ, JC Santos, JN Neal, AD Kay, UG Mueller, M Kaspari. (2014) Metabolism and the rise of fungus cultivation by ants. 2014_Shik_Metabolism and evolution of gardening in ants AmNat.

ButtonKaspari, M, Clay NA, Donoso D, Yanoviak SP. (2014) Sodium fertilization increases termites and enhances decomposition in an Amazonian forest. Ecology 95: 795–800.

ButtonReview of our Salt Work by Elizabeth Penisi in Science.


ButtonKaspari, M, MD Weiser (2014) Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Science 343: 974-975.


ButtonKay, AD, JA Bruning, A Van Alst, TA Abrahamson, WOH Hughes, M Kaspari. (2014) A carbohydrate-rich diet increases social immunity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences: 281

ButtonClay, NA, J Lucas, M Kaspari, AD Kay. (2013) Manna from heaven: refuse from an arboreal ant connects above- and below-ground processes in a lowland tropical forest. Ecosphere 4: Article 141.


ButtonShik, JZ, D Donoso, M Kaspari. (2013) The life history continuum hypothesis links traits of male ants with life outside the nest. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 149: 99-109.

ButtonHelms, JA, M Kaspari. (2013) Found or Fly: nutrient loading of dispersing ant queens decreases metrics of flight ability (Hymenoptera:Formicidae). Myrmecological News 19: 85-91.

ButtonKerekes, J, M Kaspari, B Stevenson, H Nilsson, M Hartmann, A Amend, T Bruns (2013) Nutrient enrichment increased species richness of leaf litter fungal assemblages in a tropical forest. Molecular Ecology 22: 2827-2838.

ButtonDonoso, D, MK Johnston, NA Clay, M Kaspari. (2013) Trees as templates for trophic structure of tropical litter arthropod communities. Soil Biology and Biogeochemistry 61:45-51.


ButtonMulder, C, A Boit, S Mori JA Vonk, SD Dyer, L Faggiano, S Geisen, AL Gonzalez, M Kaspari, S Lavorel, PA Marquet, AG Rossberg, RW Sterner, W Voight, DH Wall. (2012) Distributional (In)Congruence of Biodiversity-Ecosystem Functioning.   Advances in Ecological Research 46: 1-88.

ButtonShik, JZ, C Hou, A Kay, M Kaspari, JF Gillooly. (2012) Towards a general life-history model of the superorganism: predicting the survival, growth and reproduction of ant societies. Biology Letters 8:1059-1062.

ButtonKaspari M, Donoso D, JA Lucas, T Zumbusch, Kay AD. (2012) Using nutritional ecology to predict community structure: a field test in Neotropical ants. Ecosphere 3: 1-12.

ButtonShik, JZ, D Flatt, A Kay, M Kaspari. (2012) A life history continuum in the males of a Neotropical ant assemblage: refuting the sperm vessel hypothesis. Naturwissenschaften 99: 191-197.

ButtonDudley, R, M Kaspari, SP Yanoviak. (2012) Lust for salt in the western Amazon. Biotropica 44: 6-9.

ButtonKay, A D, J Z Shik, A Van Alst, K A Miller, M Kaspari. (2012) Diet composition does not affect ant colony tempo. Functional Ecology 26:317-323.

ButtonSayer, E, SJ Wright, E Tanner, J Yavitt, K Harms, J Powers, M. Kaspari, M Garcia, B Turner. (2012) Variable responses of lowland tropical forest nutrient cycles to fertilization and litter manipulation. Ecosystems 15: 387-400.

ButtonKaspari M. Chapter 4: Stoichiometry, in Metabolic Ecology: a scaling approach. (2012)  Eds. Richard Sibly, James H Brown, Astrid Kodric Brown, Oxford University Press.


ButtonShik, JZ, M Kaspari, SP Yanoviak (2011) Preliminary assessment of metabolic costs of the nematode Myrmeconema neotropicalum on its host, the tropical ant Cephalotes atratus. J. Parasitology 97: 958-959.

ButtonWright, SJ, JB Yavitt, N Wurzburger, BL Turner, EVJ Tanner, EJ Sayer, LS Santiago, M Kaspari, LO Hedin, KE Harms, MN Garcia, MD Corre (2011) Potassium, phosphorus or nitrogen limit root allocation, tree growth and litter production in a lowland tropical forest. Ecology 92: 1616-1625

ButtonKaspari M, S O’Donnell, J Lattke, S Powell. (2011) Predation and patchiness in the tropical litter: do swarm-raiding army ants skim the cream or drain the bottle? Journal of Animal Ecology 80: 818-823.

ButtonKaspari M. and MD Weiser. (2011) Per-capita energy availability and the regulation of abundance. Ecography 35: 65-72.


ButtonO’Donnell, S, M Kaspari, A Kumar, J Lattke, S Powell (2010) Elevational and geographic variation in army ant swarm raid rates. Insectes Sociaux.

ButtonWeiser, M…Kaspari, and 25 authors (2010) Canopy and litter ant assemblages share similar climate-species density relationships. Biology Letters 6: 1744-9561.

ButtonGillooly, JF, C Hou, and M. Kaspari (2010) Eusocial insects as superorganisms: insights from Metabolic Theory. Communicative and Integrative Biology 3:4 1-3.

ButtonDonoso, D, MK Johnston, and M Kaspari (2010) Trees as templates for tropical litter arthropod diversity. Oecologia 164: 201-211

ButtonYanoviak SP, Y Munk, M Kaspari, R Dudley. (2010) Aerial manuverability in wingless gliding ants. Proceedings of the Royal Academy B 277: 2194-2204

ButtonKaspari M, C Chang, J Weaver. (2010) Salted roads and sodium limitation in a northern forest ant community. Ecological Entomology 35: 543-548.

ButtonKaspari M, B Stevenson, J Kerekes, J Shik (2010) Scaling community structure: body size and the differentiation of bacteria, fungi, and ant taxocenes across a tropical forest floor. Ecology 91(8) 2221–2226

ButtonHou, C, M Kaspari, HV Zanden, JF Gillooly. (2010) The energetic basis of colonial living in social insects PNAS 107:3634-3638

ButtonShik, JZ and M Kaspari (2010) More food, less habitat: how necromass and litter decomposition combine to regulate a litter ant community. Ecological Entomology 35: 1-8


ButtonKaspari M. SP Yanoviak, R Dudley, M Yuan, and NA Clay. (2009) Sodium shortage as a constraint on the carbon cycle in an inland tropical rainforest PNAS 106:19405-19409.

ButtonYanoviak SP, M Kaspari and R Dudley. (2009) Gliding bristletails and the evolution of flight. Biology Letters 5 510-512

ButtonShik, JZ and M Kaspari. (2009) Lifespan in male ants linked to mating syndrome. Insectes Sociaux 56:131-134

ButtonKaspari M and S Yanoviak (2009) Biogeochemistry and the structure of tropical brown food webs Ecology 90:3342-3351.

ButtonDunn RR, … M Kaspari…and 26 others (2009) Climatic drivers of asymmetry in global patterns of ant diversity. Ecology Letters 12:324-333

ButtonO’Donnell, J Lattke, S Powell, M Kaspari. (2009) Species and site differences in Neotropical army ant migration behavior. Ecological Entomology 34: 476-482


ButtonKaspari, M and B. Stevenson. (2008) Evolutionary ecology, antibiosis and all that rot. PNAS 105: 19027-19028

ButtonKaspari, M, S Yanoviak, R Dudley. (2008) On the biogeography of salt limitation: a study of ant communities. PNAS 105: 17848-17851.

ButtonKaspari M. (2008) Knowing your warblers: thoughts on the 50th anniversary of MacArthur (1958). Bulletin of the Ecology Society of America. 

ButtonKaspari M and S Yanoviak. (2008) The biogeography of litter depth in tropical forests: evaluating the phosphorus growth rate hypothesis Functional Ecology 22: 919-923.

ButtonYanoviak SP, M Kaspari, R Dudley, G Poinar Jr. (2008) Parasite induced fruit mimicry in a tropical canopy ant. The American Naturalist. 171: 536-544

ButtonKaspari M, J Wright, J Yavitt, K Harms, M Garcia, M Santana. (2008). Multiple nutrients limit litterfall and decomposition in a tropical forest. Ecology Letters 11: 35-43


Dunn RR, … M Kaspari, and 26 others. (2007) Global Ant Biodiversity and Biogeography–A New Database and its Possibilities. Mymecological News 10:77-83.

Lattke, JE, M Kaspari, S O’Donnell, S Powell (2007) Las hormigas ecitoninas de Venezuela (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Ecitoninae) elenco preliminar. Entomotropica 22: 153-170.

ButtonO’Donnell S, Lattke, J, Powell S, Kaspari, M. (2007) Army ants in four forests: Geographical variation in raid rates and species abundance. Journal of Animal Ecology 76: 580-589

ButtonMilton, Y and M. Kaspari. (2007) Bottom-up and top-down regulation of decomposition in a tropical forest. Oecologia 153:163-172

ButtonKaspari M. and M Weiser. (2007) The size-grain hypothesis: do macroarthropods see a fractal world? Ecological Entomology 32: 279-282.


ButtonWeiser, M & M Kaspari. (2006) Ecological morphospace of New World ants. Ecological Entomology 31: 131-142.


ButtonO’Donnell, S, M Kaspari & John Lattke (2005) Extraordinary predation by the Neotropical army ant Cheliomyrmex andicola: implications for the evolution of the army ant syndrome.   Biotropica 38:706-709

ButtonKaspari M. (2005) Global energy gradients and the regulation of body size: worker mass and worker number in ant colonies Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 102:5079-5083

ButtonYanoviak, S, R Dudley, M Kaspari. (2005) Directed aerial descent in canopy ants. Nature 433: 624-626

ButtonValone, TJ & M Kaspari. (2005) Interactions between granivorous and omnivorous ants in a desert grassland: results from a long term experiment. Ecological Entomology 30: 116-121


ButtonKaspari M, P Ward & M Yuan (2004). Energy gradients and the geographic distribution of local ant diversity. Oecologia 140: 407-414

ButtonKaspari M. (2004) Using the Metabolic Theory of Ecology to predict global patterns of abundance. Ecology 85: 1800-1802.


ButtonKaspari M & S. O’Donnell. (2003) High rates of army ant raids in the Neotropics and implications for ant colony and community structure. Evolutionary Ecology Research 5:933-939.

ButtonKaspari M, M Yuan, & L Alonso. (2003) Spatial grain and gradients of ant species richness. American Naturalist 161: 459-477.


ButtonKaspari M &T Valone. (2002) Seasonal resource availability and the abundance of ectotherms. Ecology 83: 2991-2996


ButtonKaspari M, J Longino, J Pickering & D Windsor. (2001) The phenology of a Neotropical ant assemblage—evidence for continuous and overlapping reproduction. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 50: 382-390.

ButtonKaspari M & S Yanoviak. (2001) Bait use in tropical litter and canopy ants–evidence for differences in nutrient limitation. Biotropica 33: 207-211.

ButtonKaspari M. (2001) Taxonomic level, trophic biology, and the regulation of local abundance. Global Ecology and Biogeography 10:229-244.

ButtonKaspari M, J Pickering & D Windsor (2001) The reproductive flight phenology of a neotropical ant assemblage. Ecological Entomology 26: 245-257.


ButtonKaspari, M & M Weiser. (2000) Ant activity along moisture gradients in a tropical forest. Biotropica 32:703-711.

ButtonScheiner SM, SB Cox, M Willig, G Mittlebach, C Osenberg, & M Kaspari (2000) Species richness, species area curves, and Simpson’s paradox. Evolutionary Ecology Research 2: 791-802.

ButtonKaspari M (2000) Do imported fires ants impact canopy arthropods? Evidence from simple arboreal pitfall traps. Southwestern Naturalist 45:118-122.

ButtonYanoviak, S & M Kaspari (2000) Community structure and the habitat templet: ants in the tropical forest canopy and litter. Oikos 89:259-266.

ButtonKaspari M, S O’Donnell & JR Kercher (2000) Energy, density, and constraints to species richness: studies of ant assemblages along a productivity gradient. American Naturalist 155:280-293

ButtonKaspari M, S. O’Donnell, & L Alonso (2000) Three energy variables predict ant abundance at a geographic scale. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 267:485-490.


ButtonKaspari M & M Weiser (1999) Interspecific scaling in ants: the Size-Grain hypothesis. Functional Ecology 13:530-538.

ButtonKaspari M (1996) Testing resource-based models of patchiness in 4 Neotropical litter ant assemblages. Oikos 76:443-454.

ButtonKaspari M (1996) Litter Ant Patchiness at the m2 scale: disturbance dynamics in three Neotropical forests. Oecologia 107:265-273

ButtonKaspari M (1996) Worker size and seed size selection by harvester ants in a Neotropical forest. Oecologia 105:397-404

ButtonKaspari M & M Byrne (1995) Caste allocation in litter Pheidole: lessons from plant defense theory. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 37:255-263

ButtonKaspari M & E Vargo (1995) Does colony size buffer environmental variation? Bergmann’s rule and social insects. American Naturalist 145:610-632


ButtonKaspari M & E Vargo (1994) Nest site selection by fire ant queens. Insectes Sociaux 41:331-333

ButtonKaspari M (1993) Body size and microclimate use in Neotropical granivorous ants. Oecologia 96:500-507

ButtonKaspari M and A Joern (1993) Prey choice in three grassland birds: reevaluating opportunism. Oikos 68:414-430

ButtonKaspari M (1993) Removal of seeds from Neotropical frugivore droppings: ant responses to seed number. Oecologia 95:81-88.

ButtonKaspari M (1991) Preparation as a strategy to maximize nutrient concentration in prey. Behav. Ecology 2:234-241.

ButtonKaspari M (1991) Central place foraging in the grasshopper sparrow: opportunism or optimal foraging in a variable environment? Oikos 60:307-312.

ButtonKaspari M (1990)      Prey preparation and the determinants of handling time.      Animal Behaviour     40:118-126.

ButtonYoung BE, M Kaspari & TE Martin (1990) Species-specific nest site selection by birds in Ant-Acacia Trees. Biotropica 22:310-315.

ButtonKaspari M & H O’Leary (1988) Non-parental attendants in a north-temperate migrant. Auk 105: 792‑793.










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