Population Ecology

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 171–178 | Cite as

Effects of alternative prey on predation by small mammals on gypsy moth pupae

  • Joseph S. Elkinton
  • Andrew M. Liebhold
  • Rose-Marie Muzika
Original Article


Previous work shows that predation by small mammals is a dominant cause of mortality of low-density gypsy moths in North America and that declines in small mammal density result in increases in gypsy moth density. Here we examined whether predation by small mammals is density dependent by way of a type III functional response, and how predation is influenced by alternative prey. First we showed that the preference of predators for gypsy moth pupae was low compared to other experimental prey items, such as mealworm pupae and sunflower seeds. Predation on gypsy moth pupae was characterized by a type II functional response with percent predation highest at the lowest prey densities, whereas the functional response to sunflower seeds was characterized by a type III functional response in which predation increased with increasing prey density. These results suggest that predation by small mammals is unlikely to stabilize low-density gypsy moth populations.


Lymantria dispar Lepidoptera Lymantriidae Small mammals Functional response Peromyscus leucopus 



The authors thank Alexei Sharov and David Williams and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. We also acknowledge assistance provided in the field by Jeff Boettner, David Feicht, Gloria Witkus and Regis Young, and statistical advice provided by Thomas Jacob and John Buonaccorsi. This research was funded in part by the USDA Forest Service Northeastern Research Station, the USDA Competitive Research Grants Program (Grant# 89-337250-4684) and a MacIntyre-Stennis grant to the Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station (ms no. 3335). All experiments reported in this paper conformed with local state and federal laws governing the treatment of animal subjects.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer-Verlag Tokyo 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph S. Elkinton
    • 1
  • Andrew M. Liebhold
    • 2
  • Rose-Marie Muzika
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Entomology and Graduate Program in Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Northeastern Research StationUSDA Forest ServiceMorgantownUSA
  3. 3.School of Natural ResourcesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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