Feeding behavior of aspen leaf miner (Phyllocnistis populiella) larvae on quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) leaves was examined, by using image-analysis software, to determine the pattern and distance of the larvae's mining trails and measure the surface area of infested leaves and consumed leaf tissue. Mining pathways between hatching and pupation sites were serpentine and generally followed predictable, sequential changes in orientation. This pattern was most obvious in smaller leaves, those with a surface area of about 700 mm2 or less. In leaves larger than 700 mm2, plasticity in mining behavior increased. The serpentine pattern was initiated but became truncated when larvae reached full growth without having to consume all available leaf material. The final phase of the behavioral program was still executed, however, and larvae entered pupation at the usual leaf-edge location. We hypothesize that the serpentine pattern is genetically controlled and that it has been selected for because it promotes efficient consumption of a fixed food supply and ensures a favorable location for pupation, especially when reproductive females oviposit on small leaves.
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Vol. 71 • No. 1