Disentangling food quality from resistance against parasitoids: Diet choice by a generalist caterpillar

Michael S. Singer, Yves Carriere, Claudine Theuring, Thomas Hartmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

75 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The relative importance of food quality and enemy-reduced space is a central but unresolved issue in the evolutionary ecology of host use by phytophagous insects. Indeed, a practical obstacle to experimentally disentangling the functional roles of these factors is the host specificity of insect herbivores, particularly toxic plant specialists. In this study, we employ a toxic plant generalist to uniquely disentangle these alternative explanations. We experimentally demonstrate that the value of enemy-reduced space supersedes that of food quality in determining the diet and host preference of the polyphagous woolly bear caterpillar Grammia geneura (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae). Caterpillars sacrificed superior growth efficiency in choosing a mixed diet that included toxic host plants and provided resistance against parasitoids. The resistance of individual caterpillars was associated with the relative amount of defensive plants eaten as well as with the sequestration of pyrrolizidine alkaloids from one such plant (Senecio longilobus).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-429
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Volume164
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2004

Fingerprint

food quality
caterpillar
generalist
parasitoids
insect larvae
diet
insect
host use
Arctiinae
host preference
pyrrolizidine alkaloids
Senecio
functional role
host specificity
host preferences
alkaloid
phytophagous insects
food choices
host plant
herbivore

Keywords

  • Braconidae
  • Diet mixing
  • Enemy-free space
  • Pharmacophagy
  • Tachinidae
  • Tritrophic interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

Cite this

Disentangling food quality from resistance against parasitoids : Diet choice by a generalist caterpillar. / Singer, Michael S.; Carriere, Yves; Theuring, Claudine; Hartmann, Thomas.

In: American Naturalist, Vol. 164, No. 3, 09.2004, p. 423-429.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Singer, Michael S. ; Carriere, Yves ; Theuring, Claudine ; Hartmann, Thomas. / Disentangling food quality from resistance against parasitoids : Diet choice by a generalist caterpillar. In: American Naturalist. 2004 ; Vol. 164, No. 3. pp. 423-429.
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