Skip to main content

Seasonality affects specialisation of a temperate forest herbivore community

Cite this dataset

Seifert, Carlo Lutz et al. (2022). Seasonality affects specialisation of a temperate forest herbivore community [Dataset]. Dryad.


Understanding spatiotemporal trends on insect-plant interaction networks is essential to unveil the ecological and evolutionary processes driving herbivore specialisation. However, community studies accounting for temporal dynamics in host-plant specialisation of herbivorous insects are surprisingly scarce.

Here, we provide the background data which were used to investigate how seasonality affects specialisation of a temperate forest herbivore community.  This dataset results from a comprehensive sampling of more than 4,700 folivorous caterpillars associated with 16 deciduous tree species in eastern North America. Specifically, we provide three abundance-based plant-caterpillar interaction matrices. Each interaction matrix represents a six-week period of the growing season. These time periods are defined as follow: early season, midseason, and late season.

We observed a significantly less specialised herbivore fauna in the early season than in the two subsequent summer seasons. We further found that the seasonal increase in specialisation was driven by a remarkable turnover in species composition rather than by shifts in guild structure or intraspecific changes in diet breadth of the herbivores.


Location: Toms Brook (Virginia, USA; 38°55’ N, 78°25’ W; 220 m

Folivorous caterpillars (miners excluded) were collected from all deciduous tree individuals ( ≥ 5 cm DBH) within two 0.1 ha plots.

Total: 184 tree indiviuals in 16 species; 4710 caterpillars in 243 species.

The sampling was carried out in two consecutive years - between April, 2016 and August, 2017.

Seasons: early season (26 Apr.-6 June), midseason (7 June-18 July), late season (19 July-29 Aug.)

Species identification was based on caterpillar morphology, aided by comprehensive DNA barcoding

Usage notes

Quercus rubra agg. comprises tree individuals of Quercus rubra L., Quercus velutina Lam., as well as their hybrids.