Food preference and performance of the larvae of a specialist herbivore: Variation among and within host-plant populations
Leimu R., Riipi M., Stærk D.
Specialist herbivores are suggested to be unaffected by or attracted to the defense compounds of their host-plants, and can even prefer higher levels of certain chemicals. Abrostola asclepiadis is a specialist herbivore whose larvae feed on the leaves of Vincetoxicum hirundinaria, which contains toxic alkaloids and is unpalatable to most generalist herbivores. The food choice, leaf consumption and growth of A. asclepiadis larvae were studied to determine whether there is variation among and within host-plant populations in their suitability for this specialist herbivore. There was significant variation in food preference and leaf consumption among host-plant populations, but no differences were found in larval growth and feeding on different host-plant populations. A. asclepiadis larvae preferred host-plant populations with higher alkaloid concentrations, but did not consume more leaf material from plants originating from such populations in a no-choice experiment. There was also some variation in food preference of larvae among host-plant individuals belonging to the same population, suggesting that there was variability in leaf chemistry also within populations. Such variation in larval preference among host-plant genotypes and populations may create potential for coevolutionary dynamics in a spatial mosaic. © 2005 Elsevier SAS. All rights reserved.