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Potential ecological implications of human entomophagy by subsistence groups of the Neotropics

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The practice of human entomophagy is important to the livelihood of many subsistence cultures. Insect foods are a source of protein in traditional diets and are often considered delicacies. While considerable research has been conducted on the nutritional benefits of insects to human welfare, there has been little focus on understanding how harvests of insect foods can potentially impact local ecology. In this paper, I address the potential ecological consequences of insect harvesting activities with a focus on Neotropical subsistence communities. I confine my discussion to four insect foods - palm weevils, bruchid beetles, ants, and termites. Insect harvesting has the potential to not only influence insect populations but also to alter ecological interactions between plant and insects. I propose that rigorous studies on insect harvest intensity, in space and time, are necessary steps in understanding the full effects of harvesting activities on insect populations and broader forest communities. Research on the ecological implications of insect harvests are important in the face of potential increases in the demand for insect food as a result of rapid population growth within indigenous communities and increased hunting pressures on wild game.


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