A guild (or ecological guild) is any group of species that exploit the same resources, or that exploit different resources in related ways.[1][2][3] It is not necessary that the species within a guild occupy the same, or even similar, ecological niches.[a]


Guilds are defined according to the locations, attributes, or activities of their component species. For example, the mode of acquiring nutrients, the mobility, and the habitat zones that the species occupy or exploit can be used to define a guild. The number of guilds occupying an ecosystem is termed its disparity.[5] Members of a guild within a given ecosystem could be competing for resources, such as space or light, while cooperating in resisting wind stresses, attracting pollinators, or detecting predators, such as happens among savannah-dwelling antelope and zebra.

A guild does not typically have strict, or even clearly defined boundaries, nor does it need to be taxonomically cohesive. A broadly defined guild will almost always have constituent guilds; for example, grazing guilds will have some species that concentrate on coarse, plentiful forage, while others concentrate on low-growing, finer plants. Each of those two sub-guilds may be regarded as guilds in appropriate contexts, and they might, in turn, have sub-guilds in more closely selective contexts. Some authorities even speak of guilds in terms of a fractal resource model.[6] This concept arises in several related contexts, such as the metabolic theory of ecology, the scaling pattern of occupancy, and spatial analysis in ecology, all of which are fundamental concepts in defining guilds.

An ecological guild is not to be confused with a taxocene, a group of phylogenetically related organisms in a community that do not necessarily share the same or similar niches (for example, "the insect community"). Nor is a guild the same as a trophic species, which is a functional group of taxa sharing the same set of predators and prey within a food web.[7]

Microbial guilds

Some authors have used the term guild to analyze microbial communities. However, precisely because of the pointed lack of concretion in the original definition, it has been used with different connotations. Recently, some effort has been made to address this issue.[8] Some authors have proposed a formal definition for guilds that avoids this inherent ambiguity of niche exploitation, and a quantification method considering the problems arising from degeneracy in protein functions.[9] According to the authors, any organism that performs a function, regardless of its phylogenetic lineage, its environmental preferences or how it carries it out, would be regarded as a representative member of the guild. This contrasts with the definitions used for the study of macroorganisms, where membership demanded that the different forms of exploitation of the resource were related or similar.

Example guilds

See also


  1. ^ An ecological niche is defined as the role an organism plays in its community, i.e. decomposer, primary producer, etc.[4]


  1. ^ Simberloff, D.; Dayan, T. (1991). "The guild concept and the structure of ecological communities". Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 22: 115–143. doi:10.1146/annurev.es.22.110191.000555.
  2. ^ "guilds". Encyclopædia Britannica. Community ecology.
  3. ^ Williams, S.E.; Hero, J.M. (1998). "Rainforest frogs of the Australian wet tropics: Guild classification and the ecological similarity of declining species". Proceedings: Biological Sciences. 265 (1396): 597–602. doi:10.1098/rspb.1998.0336. PMC 1689015. PMID 9881468.
  4. ^ "Ecological niche". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  5. ^ Guillerme; et al. (2020). "Disparities in the analysis of morphological disparity". Biology Letters. 16 (7). doi:10.1098/rsbl.2020.0199. PMC 7423048. PMID 32603646.
  6. ^ Ritchie, Mark E. (2010). Scale, Heterogeneity, and the Structure and Diversity of Ecological Communities. Monographs in Population Biology. Vol. 45. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-09070-2.
  7. ^ Dunne, Jennifer A.; Williams, Richard J.; Martinez, Neo D. (1 October 2002). "Food-web structure and network theory: The role of connectance and size". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 99 (20): 12917–12922. Bibcode:2002PNAS...9912917D. doi:10.1073/pnas.192407699. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 130560. PMID 12235364.
  8. ^ Pascual-García, A. (2019). "functionInk: An efficient method to detect functional groups in multidimensional networks reveals the hidden structure of ecological communities". BioRxiv. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. doi:10.1101/656504. Retrieved 30 August 2023.
  9. ^ Rivas-Santisteban, J. (2024). "Quantifying microbial guilds". BioRxiv. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. doi:10.1101/2023.07.23.550202. S2CID 260206077. Retrieved 30 August 2023.