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Grasshoppers cope with low host plant quality by compensatory feeding and food selection: N limitation challenged


Berner, Daniel; Blanckenhorn, Wolf U; Körner, Christian (2005). Grasshoppers cope with low host plant quality by compensatory feeding and food selection: N limitation challenged. Oikos, 111(3):525-533.

Abstract

The effect of low host plant nitrogen (N) content on herbivore performance has rarely been studied together with the herbivore's feeding behaviour. We explored this relationship with juvenile Omocestus viridulus (Orthoptera: Acrididae) grasshoppers using fertilized and unfertilized host grasses. Due to lower growth rates, grasshoppers reared on N‐poor grasses exhibited slightly prolonged development and smaller adult size, while mortality was similar among the fertilizer treatments. This was found both in the laboratory and in outdoor cages under natural climatic conditions. A parallel analysis of feeding behaviour revealed that the grasshoppers counterbalance N shortage by compensatory feeding, and are capable of selectively feeding among grasses of contrasting nutritional quality when given a choice. This indicates a striking ability of O. viridulus to regulate nutrient intake in the face of imbalanced food sources. Although the species exploits a relatively very poor autotroph nutrient base in the wild, as underpinned by N analysis of natural host grasses and grasshopper tissue, our data suggest that natural food quality imposes no relevant constraint on the herbivore's performance. Our study thus challenges the importance of simple plant‐mediated control of herbivore populations, such as N limitation, but supports the view that herbivores balance their intake of N and energy.

Abstract

The effect of low host plant nitrogen (N) content on herbivore performance has rarely been studied together with the herbivore's feeding behaviour. We explored this relationship with juvenile Omocestus viridulus (Orthoptera: Acrididae) grasshoppers using fertilized and unfertilized host grasses. Due to lower growth rates, grasshoppers reared on N‐poor grasses exhibited slightly prolonged development and smaller adult size, while mortality was similar among the fertilizer treatments. This was found both in the laboratory and in outdoor cages under natural climatic conditions. A parallel analysis of feeding behaviour revealed that the grasshoppers counterbalance N shortage by compensatory feeding, and are capable of selectively feeding among grasses of contrasting nutritional quality when given a choice. This indicates a striking ability of O. viridulus to regulate nutrient intake in the face of imbalanced food sources. Although the species exploits a relatively very poor autotroph nutrient base in the wild, as underpinned by N analysis of natural host grasses and grasshopper tissue, our data suggest that natural food quality imposes no relevant constraint on the herbivore's performance. Our study thus challenges the importance of simple plant‐mediated control of herbivore populations, such as N limitation, but supports the view that herbivores balance their intake of N and energy.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 December 2005
Deposited On:22 Aug 2019 11:33
Last Modified:31 Jul 2020 03:33
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0030-1299
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0706.2005.14144.x

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