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Impact of Embryonopsis halticella eaton larvae (Lepidoptera: Yponomeutidae) feeding in Marion Island tussock grassland

Summary

Embryonopsis halticella is a brachypterous moth endemic to the Kerguelen Province of sub-Antarctic islands. Its larvae are strictly host-specific grass-borers of the tussock grass Poa cookii, and are the major herbivores on Marion Island. Monthly sampling over one year (1984) on Marion Island showed that E. halticella larvae reach a biomass of 0.222 g m-2 (dry mass) in P. cookii grassland in summer. In feeding experiments conducted in the laboratory on Marion Island, larvae consumed 0.3 X their own live mass in leaf material daily. Extrapolated consumption rates in the field range from 1 kg ha-1 month-1 in winter to 18 kg ha-1 month-1 (dry mass) in summer. Total annual consumption, based on leaf feeding only, amounts to 86 kg ha-1 (dry mass). Significant shifts in diet from foliage to seeds occur during spring, and larvae also consume their own frass and exuviae. It is calculated that E. halticella larvae remove 2.5% of the annual production of Poa cookii in Marion Island tussock grassland.

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Crafford, J.E., Scholtz, C.H. Impact of Embryonopsis halticella eaton larvae (Lepidoptera: Yponomeutidae) feeding in Marion Island tussock grassland. Polar Biol 6, 191–196 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00443395

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Keywords

  • Biomass
  • Consumption Rate
  • Annual Production
  • Significant Shift
  • Leaf Material