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Hygraula nitens, the only native aquatic caterpillar in New Zealand, prefers feeding on an alien submerged plant

Abstract

Hygraula nitens is a New Zealand native moth with aquatic larvae that feed on submerged aquatic plants. The larvae have been mainly observed using native Potamogeton and Myriophyllum species as a food source, although some studies reported larvae feeding on the alien macrophytes Hydrilla verticillata, Lagarosiphon major and Ceratophyllum demersum. Experimental mesocosm studies showed larvae had a major effect on H. verticillata, C. demersum, L. major, Elodea canadensis and Egeria densa. In both no choice and choice experiments H. nitens larvae showed a clear preference for and the highest consumption of C. demersum, while the native macrophyte Myriophyllum triphyllum ranked fourth out of five alien and two native plant species, indicating a preference of the larvae for alien macrophytes. Additional choice experiments using C. demersum, sampled from different waters in NZ, illustrated that there was a clear difference in H. nitens preference for plants based on their source. However although C. demersum had the lowest leaf dry matter content (LDMC) compared with the other macrophytes, neither the LDMC nor leaf carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus or total phenolic contents alone could explain the preferences of H. nitens, and we conclude that food choice is based on a combination of these and/or additional factors.

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Acknowledgments

We heartily acknowledge the helpful comments by L. Bakker and two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Petra Redekop.

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Guest editors: M. T. O’Hare, F. C. Aguiar, E. S. Bakker & K. A. Wood / Plants in Aquatic Systems – a 21st Century Perspective

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Redekop, P., Gross, E.M., Nuttens, A. et al. Hygraula nitens, the only native aquatic caterpillar in New Zealand, prefers feeding on an alien submerged plant. Hydrobiologia 812, 13–25 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-016-2709-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-016-2709-7

Keywords

  • Herbivory
  • Submerged aquatic plants
  • Invasive plants
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Total phenolic compounds
  • Leaf dry matter content