Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Caterpillars that eat multiple plant species are more susceptible to hungry birds

Date:
June 16, 2014
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
Biologists have learned that caterpillars that feed on one or two plant species are better able to hide from predatory birds than caterpillars that consume a wide variety of plants.

A tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) caterpillar feeds on black cherry (Prunus serotina), which was the only plant consumed by this species at the research field site.
Credit: Michael Singer / Wesleyan University

For caterpillars, having a well-rounded diet can be fraught with peril.

UC Irvine and Wesleyan University biologists have learned that caterpillars that feed on one or two plant species are better able to hide from predatory birds than caterpillars that consume a wide variety of plants.

This is probably because the color patterns and hiding behaviors of the caterpillar "specialists" have evolved to allow them to blend into the background flora more effectively than caterpillars that eat many different plant species. Moving among these diverse plant types, the nonspecialists are not as camouflaged, making them easier for hungry birds to spot.

"It's a classic example of risk vs. reward," said Kailen Mooney, associate professor of ecology & evolutionary biology at UC Irvine. "Evolutionarily speaking, a caterpillar must choose between having a broad array of plants to feed upon but facing increased risk of being nabbed by a bird" and having a very limited menu but being less exposed to predators.

Mooney and Michael Singer, associate professor of biology at Wesleyan, led the study, which appears in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

Furthermore, the researchers found that all of this matters a lot to the plants. A species consumed by caterpillars more vulnerable to birds (those with varied diets) benefits from birds removing those caterpillars. In contrast, a plant species fed upon by caterpillars better able to hide from birds (those with highly restricted diets) doesn't benefit as much from birds and must instead defend itself.

Mooney noted that this insight into the secret lives of caterpillars reveals not only the processes driving the evolution of insect diets but also the broad significance of caterpillar feeding for associated plants and birds.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Irvine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. S. Singer, I. H. Lichter-Marck, T. E. Farkas, E. Aaron, K. D. Whitney, K. A. Mooney. Herbivore diet breadth mediates the cascading effects of carnivores in food webs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1401949111

Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "Caterpillars that eat multiple plant species are more susceptible to hungry birds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616151500.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2014, June 16). Caterpillars that eat multiple plant species are more susceptible to hungry birds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616151500.htm
University of California - Irvine. "Caterpillars that eat multiple plant species are more susceptible to hungry birds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616151500.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins