1. Growth rates of immature invertebrates can be of profound importance to subsequent reproductive success in the adult stage. If diet selection in herbivores is a principal means of maximising growth and rate of development, individuals should select food of the highest quality.
2. If disparities are found between performance and preference, these may be the result of individuals balancing nutritional gain against other demands on their behaviour, such as a need for shelter. The responses of the crane-fly herbivore Tipula montana Curtis (Diptera: Tipulidae) to a range of moss genera from an upland environment were investigated to determine whether diet selection was determined by food quality alone, as measured by its effect on larval growth and survival.
3. Larvae were reared individually on single moss genus diets, and their growth, development, and survival were measured. Each of the mosses supported growth and development although the mean weights achieved differed by a factor of two between food genera. In two-choice preference experiments, individuals broadly chose bryophyte foods as expected from their quality. One notable exception was the moss Pleurozium schreberi, which gave the best growth performance but was among the least preferred.
4. The two methods of assessing preference gave different results: observations of larvae showed relatively greater selection for dense mosses than faecal pellet analysis. A strong dietary preference for an angiosperm, the sedge Curer bigelowii, over all mosses supported the interpretation that crane-fly larvae benefit from bryophytes as a refuge, and that this factor may override dietary quality.
- diet selection
- feeding preferences
- LIFETIME REPRODUCTIVE SUCCESS
- GRYLLUS-BIMACULATUS DEGEER
- FIELD CRICKET
- HABITAT USE