3 years ago

Habitat use is linked to resource‐specific performance of an ecologically important marsh predator

It is commonly assumed that animals should preferentially use habitats that enhance their individual performance. However, there have been few attempts to empirically test the relationship between an animals’ habitat use and performance. This is surprising, since knowing about this connection should enhance our ability to predict the local population dynamics of ecologically important species. Here, we used three primary experiments to assess the relationship between habitat use and performance for an important insect consumer (ladybeetles). First, we used field manipulations of resource availability (i.e., scale insects and cordgrass pollen) to examine the habitat use of ladybeetle predators. Second, we conducted a series of no‐choice laboratory assays to compare the performance (fecundity and longevity) of ladybeetles on these different resources. Third, we quantified adult ladybeetle preference for olfactory cues from cordgrass with and without scale insects using a Y‐tube olfactometer. In the field, adult ladybeetles selectively used plots containing scale insects. In the laboratory, diets containing scale insects maximized both adult and larval ladybeetle longevity, and adult fecundity. Adult ladybeetles were attracted to chemical cues associated with scale insects over distances of 10s of centimeters. Overall, our findings suggest that the habitat use and performance of ladybeetles are strongly linked, with ladybeetles preferentially using habitats that maximize their individual performance.
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