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Foraging behaviour of Armadillidium vulgare (Isopoda: Oniscidea) in heterogeneous environments

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Foraging behaviour of Armadillidium vulgare was observed in laboratory arenas in which the spatial distribution of patches of high quality food (powdered dicotyledonous leaf litter) was varied within a background of low quality food (powdered grass leaf litter). The hypotheses that the foraging behaviour and foraging path of A. vulgare would be influenced by food quality and the patchiness of high quality food resources were tested.

More time was spent in high quality food patches than in low quality food backgrounds than expected by chance in all heterogeneity treatments, but an increasingly higher percentage of time was spent in low quality food as the high quality food became more clumped in space. More time was spent searching, but less time was spent feeding in low quality food backgrounds than in high quality food patches in all the treatments. Walking speed was found to be lower in high quality food patches than in low quality food backgrounds and this was not affected by treatment. Turning frequency and turning angle were found to be higher in high quality food patches than in low quality backgrounds. Turning frequency in low quality food backgrounds decreased as the high quality food became more clumped in space, whereas turning angle in high quality food patches significantly increased in the patchy, but then decreased again in the clumped treatment.

The effects of varying the spatial heterogeneity of high quality foods on the trade-off between costs of searching and intake benefits for saprophages are discussed in relation to predictions from optimal foraging theory for circumstances when intake rate maximisation is affected by the constraint of limited nutrients.

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