There is generally a close relationship between a consumer's food and its optimal nutrients. When there is a mismatch, it is hypothesized that mobile herbivores switch between food items to balance nutrients, however, there are limited data for field populations. In this study, we measured ambient plant nutrient content at two time points and contrasted our results with the nutrient ratio selected by wild female and male grasshoppers (Oedaleus senegalensis). Few plants were near O. senegalensis’ optimal protein:carbohydrate ratio (P:C), nor were plants complementary. Grasshoppers collected earlier all regulated for a carbohydrate-biased ratio but females ate slightly more protein. We hypothesized that the long migration undertaken by this species may explain its carbohydrate needs. In contrast to most laboratory studies, grasshoppers collected later did not tightly regulate their P:C. These results suggest that field populations are not shifting their P:C to match seasonal plant nutrient shifts and that mobile herbivores rely on post-ingestive mechanisms in the face of environmental variation. Because this is among the first studies to examine the relationship between ambient nutrient landscape and physiological state our data are a key step in bridging knowledge acquired from lab studies to hypotheses regarding the role ecological factors play in foraging strategies.
- Temporal variation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Insect Science
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics