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Oviposition preference and neonate performance of Mnesampela privata in relation to heterophylly in Eucalyptus dunnii and E. globulus

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1 The autumn gum moth, Mnesampela privata, is an endemic Australian geometrid that utilizes a number of species within the genus Eucalyptus as hosts. Based on field observations, the moth is thought to be leaf-type specific for juvenile as opposed to adult eucalypt foliage.

2 Laboratory binary choice assays of the oviposition preference of host novice M. privata confirmed that eggs were more likely to be laid upon juvenile rather than adult foliage of Eucalyptus dunnii and two subspecies of E. globulus. This oviposition preference was not influenced by differences in leaf size or adherence to leaves by ovipositing moths. The high specific leaf weights common to adult leaves were associated with reduced oviposition.

3 Although neonates fed on both juvenile and adult leaves of most of the trees studied, performance was greater on juvenile as opposed to adult foliage. Juvenile leaves typically had lower specific leaf weights and were nutritionally superior to their adult counterparts. Specific leaf weights above 0.236 mg/mm2 (associated with low water, i.e. = 56.5%, and nitrogen, i.e. = 1.23%, contents) were associated with reduced larval performance. Younger adult leaves, those with lower specific leaf weights, allowed slightly greater larval consumption.

4 When ovipositing, this eucalypt-specific moth discriminates between leaf types of its heterophyllous hosts in favour of types with the lowest specific leaf weight. Less tough leaf types, which are also higher in nitrogen, enable neonates to attain larger body weights.
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Keywords: Geometridae; Myrtaceae; heteroblasty; leaf morphology; phase change

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-11-01

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