University of Oulu

Host range of lichenivorous moths with special reference to nutritional quality and chemical defence in lichens

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Author: Pöykkö, Heikki1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2005
Publish Date: 2005-11-30
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Kuusamonsali (Auditorium YB210), Linnanmaa, on December 10th, 2005, at 12 noon
Reviewer: Professor Heikki Roininen
Professor Toomas Tammaru


Host use and range of herbivorous insects are determined by several factors, of which nutritional quality and secondary chemistry have been shown to play very important roles. For herbivores feeding on lichens these traits are assumed to be more critical than for species feeding on higher plants, since lichens are nutritionally poor and often contain high concentrations of secondary metabolites. I examined the role of lichens’ nutritional quality and secondary chemicals on the performance of lichen-feeding Lepidopteran larvae. I also tested whether females of lichenivorous species preferably oviposit on host species of the highest nutritional quality for the growth of larvae.

Larvae of Eilema depressum performed best on Melanelia exasperata, which is of the highest nutritional quality, as indicated by the high N concentration and the absence of lichen secondary metabolites compared to the other lichens studied. Host nutritional quality did not promote the production of an additional generation. Larvae of E. depressum needed fewer instars and grew bigger on a high-quality diet than larvae reared on a diet of poorer quality. However, the main factor contributing to the wide variation in the number of larval instars was the question of whether or not larvae overwintered. Growth of Cleorodes lichenaria at the beginning of the larval period matched equally the nutritional quality of the hosts. However, the final larval period was shortest on Ramalina species, which was preferred by both females ovipositing their eggs and larvae searching for a host. In the field, larvae were found almost exclusively on Ramalina species.

Larvae of E. depressum were not able to survive on intact thalli of Vulpicida pinastri and Hypogymnia physodes, but after removal of lichen’s secondary metabolites, larval survival remained equally high as on other lichens. Larvae also showed a clear preference towards thalli with lowered concentrations of secondary metabolites in Parmelia sulcata, V. pinastri and H. physodes. Parietin in Xanthoria parietina was the only secondary metabolite that had no impact on the survival or host selection of E. depressum larvae.

The present results show that the nutritional quality and some lichen secondary chemicals are important factors for the growth, survival and host selection of lichen-feeding Lepidopteran larvae. The preference-performance hypothesis is at least partly able to explain the host range of C. lichenaria, although it seems that there are also other factors, such as larval dispersal and host selection or top-down forces, that might contribute to host range of lichenivorous Lepidopteran larvae. Moreover, lichenivorous larvae seem to be partly responsible for their own host selection.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 951-42-7959-X
ISBN Print: 951-42-7958-1
Issue: 450
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2005. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.