The puzzling affinity between modularity and dependence asymmetry

Gilberto Corso, N. F. Britton

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We discuss the relationship between two patterns found in interaction networks ( INs) of community ecology: modularity and asymmetric specialisation. These two patterns express two opposite features: asymmetric specialisation suggests an interplay of generalists and specialists forming an entangled web of interconnected species, while modularity brings the idea of groups of species interacting in isolated cliques. We perform the analysis using Dependence Asymmetry ( DA), which is the simplest way to quantify asymmetric specialisation. We construct an algorithm that finds the pattern of maximal DA, and we estimate the upper bound of DA analytically. We study the symmetric modular structure that has zero DA, and then force an asymmetric mismatch in this pattern to generate high DA, allowing us to compare it with a random pattern and with the maximal possible value. We conclude that, despite the opposite notions suggested by the studied patterns, if a modular pattern has enough asymmetry it resembles a specialised asymmetric pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-200
Number of pages6
JournalEcological Complexity
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Asymmetric specialisation
  • Bipartite networks
  • Community ecology
  • Dependence asymmetry
  • Interaction networks
  • Modularity
  • Nestedness


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