3 years ago

Prospective evidence for independent nitrogen and phosphorus limitation of grasshopper (<i>Chorthippus curtipennis</i>) growth in a tallgrass prairie

Madison Rode, Nathan P. Lemoine, Melinda D. Smith

by Madison Rode, Nathan P. Lemoine, Melinda D. Smith

Insect herbivores play a pivotal role in regulating plant production and community composition, and their role in terrestrial ecosystems is partly determined by their feeding behavior and performance among plants of differing nutritional quality. Historically, nitrogen (N) has been considered the primary limiting nutrient of herbivorous insects, but N is only one of many potential nutrients important to insect performance. Of these nutrients, phosphorus (P) is perhaps the most important because somatic growth depends upon P-rich ribosomal RNA. Yet relatively few studies have assessed the strength of P-limitation for terrestrial insects and even fewer have simultaneously manipulated both N and P to assess the relative strengths of N- and P-limitation. Here, we tested for potential N and P limitation, as well as N:P co-limitation, on Chorthippis curtipennis (Orthoptera, Acrididae), an abundant member of arthropod communities of central US prairies. Our results demonstrate weak evidence for both N and P limitation of C. curtipennis growth rates in laboratory feeding assays. Importantly, P-limitation was just as strong as N-limitation, but we found no evidence for NP co-limitation in our study. Furthermore, nutrient limitation was not apparent in field studies, suggesting that insect growth rates may be predominately controlled by other factors, including temperature and predation. Our results suggest that P should be jointly considered, along with N, as a primary determinant of herbivore feeding behavior under both current and future climate conditions.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0177754

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