Sideroxylonal in Eucalyptus foliage influences foraging behviour of an arboreal folivore
Wiggins, NL and Marsh, KJ and Wallis, IR and Foley, WJ and McArthur, C, Sideroxylonal in Eucalyptus foliage influences foraging behviour of an arboreal folivore, Oecologia, 147, (2) pp. 272-279. ISSN 0029-8549 (2006) [Refereed Article]
Plant secondary metabolites (PSMs) offer plants chemical defences against herbivores, and are known to influence intake and diet choice in both insect and mammalian herbivores. However, there is limited knowledge regarding how PSMs influence herbivore foraging decisions. Herbivore foraging decisions, in turn, directly impact on which individual plants, and plant species, are selected for consumption. We took advantage of the natural variation in sideroxylonal concentrations in the foliage of Eucalyptus melliodora (Cunn. ex Schauer) to investigate feeding patterns of a marsupial folivore, the common ringtail possum, Pseudocheirus peregrinus (Boddaert 1785). Foliage, collected from six trees, contained between 0.32 and 12.97 mg g-DM-1 sideroxylonal. With increasing sideroxylonal concentrations, possums decreased their total intake, rate of intake and intake per feeding bout, and increased their cumulative time spent feeding. Possums did not alter their total feeding time, number of feeding bouts or time per feeding bout in response to increasing sideroxylonal concentrations. Results demonstrate important behavioural changes in foraging patterns in response to sideroxylonal. These behavioural changes have important implications, in relation to altered foraging efficiency and potential predation risk, for herbivores foraging in the field. As a result, the spatial distribution of dietary PSMs across a landscape may directly influence herbivore fitness, and ultimately habitat selection of mammalian herbivores.