Ontogenetic strategies in insect herbivores and their impact on tri-trophic interactions.


Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Apartado Postal 70-275, Coyoacán, C.P. 04510, Ciudad de México, Mexico. Electronic address: [Email]


Insect herbivores express tremendous ontogenetic variation in traits related to growth and maturation, but also as an evolutionary consequence of ecological interactions with plants and predators. These selective pressures can either reinforce or restrict expression of particular ontogenetic strategies, allowing herbivores to simultaneously cope with plant resistance and risk of predation through ontogenetic change. For example, whereas an increase in defense-sabotaging behavior, aposematism and sequestration along herbivore ontogeny seems to be reinforced by both bottom-up and top-down forces, some ontogenetic trends in anti-predator behavior can be limited by plant resistance. Communication among plants, herbivores and their natural enemies is also influenced by insect ontogenies. The study of ontogenetic strategies of herbivores requires the assessment of the genetic variation, heritability and adaptive value across herbivore development, considering the variation in plant quality and predation risk.

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