How do two specialist butterflies determine growth and biomass of a shared host plant?
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Although insect herbivory can modify subsequent quantity and quality of their host plants, change in plant quantity following herbivory has received less attention than plant quality. In particular, little is known about how previous herbivore damage determines plant growth and biomass in an insect species-specific manner. We explored whether herbivore species-specific food demand influences plant growth and biomass. To do this, we conducted a series of experiments and field survey using two specialist butterflies, Sericinus montela and Atrophaneura alcinous, and their host plant, Aristolochia debilis. It is known that A. alcinous larva requires four times more food resources to fulfill its development than S. montela larva. Despite that A. alcinous larvae imposed greater damage on plants than S. montela larvae, plant growth did not differ due to herbivory by these species both in single and multiple herbivory events. On the other hand, total aboveground biomass of the plants was reduced more by A. alcinous than S. montela feeding regardless of the number of herbivory events. Feeding on plants with a history of previous herbivory neither decreased nor increased larval growth. Our results suggest that food demand of the two butterfly species determined subsequent plant biomass, although the plant response may depend on tolerance of the host plant (i.e., ability to compensate for herbivore damage). Such difference in the effects of different herbivore species on host plant biomass is more likely to occur than previously thought, because food demand differs in most herbivore species sharing a host plant.
KeywordsAristolochia Food demand Herbivory history Plant growth response
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