Praying mantids have been shown to exert strong influences on arthropod community composition. However, they may not occupy the same trophic level throughout their lives. Trophic shifting over a life cycle could explain the documented variation in results from field studies, but specific interactions of predators within food webs have been difficult to determine simply by comparing control and treatment assemblages in field experiments. We examined the trophic position of the Chinese praying mantid, Tenodera aridifolia sinensis (Saussure), using stable isotope analysis (SIA). We measured the δ13C and δ15N of field-collected arthropods, and of laboratory groups of mantids fed known diets of these arthropods chosen from the most abundant trophic guilds: herbivores (sap feeders and plant chewers), and carnivores.We also collected mantids from the field over a growing season and compared their SIA values to those of the laboratory groups. Both δ13C and δ15N of mantids fed carnivorous prey (spiders or other mantids) were higher than those fed herbivores (grasshoppers). SIA values from fieldcollected mantids were highly variable, and indicated that they did not take prey from trophic guilds in proportion to their abundances, i.e., were not frequency-dependent predators. Further, δ15N decreased from a high at egg hatch to a low at the third instar as early nymphs fed mainly on lower trophic levels, and increased steadily thereafter as they shifted to feeding on higher levels.We suggest that the community impact of generalist predators can be strongly influenced by ontogenetic shifts in diet.
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Vol. 44 • No. 2