Insect Herbivore Stoichiometry: The Effect of Macronutrient Quantity, Ratio, and Quality (Orthoptera: Acridae, Schistocerca americana)
Boswell, Andrew William Payne
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The field of ecological stoichiometry has been dominated by studies focusing on aquatic & benthic microinvertabrates with less attention given to herbivorous insects. These organisms rely on their food source(s) to supply all of the building blocks (elements) they need in order to complete their life cycle. Since insect herbivores do not have the same elemental composition as the plants they use for food the question arises; of how they go about building themselves. We investigated what happened when grasshoppers were fed diets with various macronutrient profiles, their total amounts, and when the protein quality varied. We discovered that under controlled conditions when using a high quality protein source that grasshoppers are able to maintain a strict level of elemental homeostasis, but that the elements directly related to manipulations made in the food seem to vary (carbon, which is associated with carbohydrates and nitrogen, associated with protein). We also discovered that when the quality of protein changes an immature grasshoppers elemental stoichiometry loses some of this strict homeostatic regulation.