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Data from: Plant functional traits reveal the relative contribution of habitat and food preferences to the diet of grasshoppers

Citation

Ibanez, Sébastien et al. (2014), Data from: Plant functional traits reveal the relative contribution of habitat and food preferences to the diet of grasshoppers, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.fr0pd

Abstract

Food preferences and food availability are two major determinants of the diet of generalist herbivores and of their spatial distribution. How do these factors interact and eventually lead to diet differentiation in co-occurring herbivores? We quantified the diet of four grasshopper species co-occurring in subalpine grasslands using DNA barcoding of the plants contained in the faeces of individuals sampled in the field. The food preferences of each grasshopper species were assessed by a choice (cafeteria) experiment from among 24 plant species common in five grassland plots, in which the four grasshoppers were collected, while the habitat was described by the relative abundance of plant species in the grassland plots. Plant species were characterised by their leaf economics spectrum (LES), quantifying their nutrient vs. structural tissue content. The grasshoppers’ diet, described by the mean LES of the plants eaten, could be explained by their plant preferences but not by the available plants in their habitat. The diet differed significantly across four grasshopper species pairs out of six, which validates food preferences assessed in standardised conditions as indicators for diet partitioning in nature. In contrast, variation of the functional diversity (FD) for LES in the diet was mostly correlated to the FD of the available plants in the habitat, suggesting that diet mixing depends on the environment and is not an intrinsic property of the grasshopper species. This study sheds light on the mechanisms determining the feeding niche of herbivores, showing that food preferences influence niche position whereas habitat diversity affects niche breadth.

Usage Notes

Location

Alps
Villar d'Arène
France