, Volume 79, Issue 4, pp 526–532 | Cite as

Temperature and food quality influences feeding behavior, assimilation efficiency and growth rate of arctic woolly-bear caterpillars

  • Olga Kukal
  • Todd E. Dawson
Original Papers


The energy budget for feeding activity and growth of larval Gynaephora groenlandica was investigated on the tundra and in the laboratory. Larvae fed only in June when the buds and young leaves of Salix arctica, its principal host plant, contained the highest concentrations of macro-nutrients and total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC). The mid-summer hiatus in larval feeding was coincident with an abrupt decline in the TNC content of leaves and a buildup of plant secondary metabolites in the leaves of S. arctica. Following cessation of feeding, the larvae remained concealed from the sun within crevices and vegetation mats. Growth rates of larvae incubated at 15 and 30°C were similar (4.7–5.0 mg/larva/day), but the assimilation efficiency at 15°C was four times greater (40%) than at 30°C. Growth rates were lowest at 5°C (0.22mg/larva/day) as was the assimilation efficiency (6.6%), because of the extended residence time of food in the gut. The high rate of ingestion and excretion at 30°C was caused by elevated maintenance metabolism. Changes in metabolic state influenced oxygen consumption, which was highest for feeding larvae (0.29 ml/g/h) and significantly lower for each, digesting, moving, starved larvae, and lowest for inactive larvae (0.06 ml/g/h). An influence of temperature and leaf quality on digestion rate and maintenance metabolism is the most likely cause of the feeding behavior pattern in G. groenlandica. The larvae may undergo “voluntary hypothermia” in order to avoid an energy, deficit resulting from high maintenance metabolism during mid-season when the energy content and food quality declines. The restriction of growth and development to a very short period prior to mid-summer may have contributed, to the extended 14-year life cycle of this species.

Key words

Insect-plant interaction Arctic Assimilation efficiency Gynaephora groenlandica Salix arctica 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olga Kukal
    • 1
  • Todd E. Dawson
    • 2
  1. 1.Dept. of Biological SciencesUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.Dept. of BotanyUniversity of WashingtonScattleUSA

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