Guimarães Jr., P. R., G. Machado, M.A.M. de Aguiar, P. Jordano, J. Bascompte, A. Pinheiro, S. F. dos Reis. 2007. Build-up mechanisms determining the topology of mutualistic networks. Journal of Theoretical Biology 249: 181-189.
The frequency distribution of interactions per species (i.e., degree distribution) within plant-animal mutualistic assemblages often decays as a power-law with an exponential truncation. Such a truncation suggests that there are ecological factors limiting the frequency of supergeneralist species. However, it is not clear whether these patterns can emerge from intrinsic features of the interacting assemblages, such as differences between plant and animal species richness (richness ratio). Here, we show that high richness ratios often characterize plant-animal mutualisms. Then, we demonstrate that exponential truncations are expected in small two-mode networks generated by a simple model that incorporates build-up mechanisms that lead to a high richness ratio. Our results provide a simple interpretation for the truncations commonly observed in the degree distributions of mutualistic networks that complements previous ones based on biological effects.