Foraging by a Generalist Grasshopper: The Distance Between Food Resources Influences Diet Mixing and Growth Rate (Orthoptera: Acrididae)

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The grasshopper, Schistocerca americana, grew better on a mixture of cotton and kale than on either alone. When the two foods were placed in close proximity, growth rates were similar among individuals, but when they were 20 cm apart growth rates were extremely variable among individuals. Behavioral analyses showed that distance influenced the dietary mixing behavior of individuals. Foods close together were sampled more often and there were more meals that included both food types. When foods were distant, individuals tended to stay for relatively long periods at one or the other; when on cotton, this resulted in more feeding on cotton, which was an infereior food. Individuals varied in the extent to which they were constrained by the distance between the two foods. Those that moved between the foods less and therefore mixed less seemed to grow less well, suggesting the possibility of a trade-off between active foraging and behavior associated with predator avoidance.

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