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Do turning biases by the 7-spot ladybird, Coccinella septempunctata, increase their foraging efficiency?

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The hypothesis that foraging male and female Coccinella septempunctata L. would exhibit a turning bias when walking along a branched linear wire in a Y-maze was tested. Individuals were placed repeatedly in the maze. Approximately 45% of all individuals tested displayed significant turning biases, with a similar number of individuals biased to the left and right. In the maze right-handed individuals turned right at 84.4% of turns and the left-handed individuals turned left at 80.2% of turns. A model of the searching efficiency of C. septempunctata in dichotomous branched environments showed that model coccinellids with greater turning biases discovered a higher proportion of the plant for a given number of searches than those with no bias. A modification of the model to investigate foraging efficiency, by calculating the mean time taken by individuals to find randomly distributed aphid patches, suggested that on four different sizes of plants, with a variety of aphid patch densities, implementing a turning bias was a significantly more efficient foraging strategy than no bias. In general the benefits to foraging of implementing a turning bias increased with the degree of the bias. It may be beneficial for individuals in highly complex branched environments to have a turning bias slightly lower than 100% in order to benefit from increased foraging efficiency without walking in circles. Foraging bias benefits increased with increasing plant size and decreasing aphid density. In comparisons of two different plant morphologies, one with a straight stem and side branches and one with a symmetrically branched morphology, there were few significant differences in the effects of turning biases on foraging efficiency between morphologies.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK; 2: School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK

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