Diet-Induced Head Allometry Among Foliage-Chewing Insects and Its Importance for Graminivores

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Science  31 Jan 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4737, pp. 495-497
DOI: 10.1126/science.231.4737.495


Individuals of the grass-feeding caterpillar of Pseudaletia unipuncta, reared from hatching on hard grass, had head masses twice as great as those of caterpillars fed soft artificial diet, even though the larvae reached the same body mass. Larvae reared on soft wheat seedlings had intermediate head masses. Thus muscular effort increases muscular development in an insect, which in turn has a dramatic morphogenetic effect on head size. Size differences in the head capsules, with the correlated differences in mandibular power, have a direct effect on the ability of the insects to ingest hard foods rapidly: larger heads are adaptive for dealing with hard grasses.

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