Biotransfer of Selenium: Effects on an Insect Predator, Podisus maculiventris

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The effects of selenium (Se) accumulation in phytophagous insects on predators in the next trophic level were investigated. The generalist predator Podisus maculiventris Say (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) was fed an herbivore Spodoptera exigua (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) larvae from control diet and diets at two Se levels (0, 109, and 135 μg/g sodium selenate dry weight added). Predators reared on larvae grown on diets with sodium selenate took longer to complete each developmental stage and had significantly higher mortality rates. Predators achieving the adult stage on Se-containing hosts weighed 20% less than those feeding on control larvae. Reduced adult weight of insects has been associated with reduced fitness (longevity, egg production, etc.), which would have long-term negative impacts on population dynamics. These developmental and mortality effects resulted from biotransfer of Se, not biomagnification since the trophic transfer factor was less than 1.0 (∼0.85). Host larvae in Se-treatments contained significantly more total Se (9.76 and 13.0 μg/g Se dry weight host larvae) than their predators (8.34 and 11 μg/g Se dry weight predatory bugs, respectively). Host larvae and predators in the control groups did not differ in their Se content. These data demonstrate that Se in the food chain may have detrimental population level effects on insects even in the absence of biomagnification, given the host contains significantly elevated concentrations of selenium.

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