Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 58, Issue 6, pp 545–551 | Cite as

Locating food in a spatially heterogeneous environment: Implications for fitness of the macrodecomposer Armadillidium vulgare (Isopoda: Oniscidea)

  • Joanne M. TuckEmail author
  • Mark Hassall
Original Article


To assess the fitness consequences of foraging on patchy resources, consumption rates, growth rates and survivorship of Armadillidium vulgare were monitored while feeding in arenas in which the spatial distribution of patches of high quality food (powdered dicotyledonous leaf litter) was varied within a matrix of low quality food (powdered grass leaf litter). Predictions from behavioural experiments that these fitness correlates would be lower when high quality food is more heterogeneously distributed in space were tested but not supported either by laboratory or field experiments. To investigate whether A. vulgare can develop the ability to relocate high quality food patches, changes in foraging behaviour, over a comparable time period to that used in the fitness experiments, were monitored in arenas in which there was a high quality food patch in a low quality matrix. A. vulgare increased its ability to relocate the position of high quality food over time. It reduced time spent in low quality food matrices and increased time spent in high quality food patches with time after the start of the experiment. When the position of a high quality food patch was moved, the time spent in the low quality food matrix increased and less time was spent in high quality food patches, compared to arenas in which the food was not moved. The fitness benefits for saprophages of developing the ability to relocate high quality patches while foraging in spatially heterogeneous environments are discussed.


Orientation behaviour Learning Resource patchiness Growth Terrestrial isopods 



We are very grateful to Jenny Stevenson for help with the fieldwork. This work was funded by a studentship from the Natural Environment Research Council. We thank two anonymous referees for helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

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