The aim of our study was to determine experimentally the influence of the chemical composition of native leaf species on feeding preferences and growth of the tropical shredder Phylloicus sp. We tested whether Phylloicus was able to discriminate among leaf species, and whether leaf species affected its growth rate. The native leaf species selected for the study were: Anacardiumexcelsum (Anacardiaceae), Ficus sp. (Moraceae), Huracrepitans (Euphorbiaceae), and Tabebuiarosea (Bignoniaceae). Phylloicus larvae and leaves of native tree species were collected from Caño Carichuano, a 2nd-order intermittent stream located in northwestern Venezuela. Larvae were acclimated to laboratory conditions, and leaves were air dried and stored before beginning the experiments. Additional leaves were used to determine initial chemical composition (P, lignin, N, and polyphenols). Feeding experiments were conducted in which larvae were given a choice of different leaf species. Phylloicus preferred to feed on leaf species with high nutrient content and low lignin and polyphenol concentrations (Ficus sp.) and rejected leaves with low nutrient content and high lignin and polyphenol concentrations (Anacardium). However, Phylloicus selected Anacardium leaves for case-building. Growth of Phylloicus sp. fed leaf discs of Ficus or Tabebuia did not differ.
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