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Host plant effects on the behavioural phenotype of a Chrysomelid

Ecological entomology 2017 v.42 no.3 pp. 336-344
Phaedon cochleariae, adults, cabbage, environmental factors, feeding preferences, food plants, host plants, life history, pests, phenotype, phytophagous insects, rearing, reproductive performance, watercress
1. The food plant quality influences feeding preferences and various life history traits of herbivorous insects. However, the effects of different host plant qualities on the behavioural phenotype have rarely been studied in behavioural ecology, especially in a pest‐crop‐framework. 2. Behavioural phenotypes of insects may not only be affected by external environmental factors, such as the host plant quality but are also shaped by internal factors, such as the sex and the age of individuals. 3. To study host plant effects on behavioural phenotypes, we reared mustard leaf beetles (Phaedon cochleariae Fabricius) either on their natural host watercress or on the crop cabbage, on which this beetle can be a pest. The behavioural phenotype was characterised twice in the adult lifetime by measuring six behavioural traits tested in distinct contexts. 4. Depending on the context, different behavioural traits were specifically affected by the host plant, the sex and/or the age. Beetles fed on cabbage became more active with age. Furthermore, the boldness tested in an unprotected environment context was influenced by the host, with beetles fed on cabbage being bolder, whereas the boldness in a hiding or predator attack context was affected by the age and/or the interaction of host plant × sex. 5. In conclusion, beetles fed on the crop cabbage develop a different behavioural phenotype compared to beetles fed on watercress. Previous results showed that beetles reared on cabbage have a higher reproductive output. Thus, beetles fed on the crop potentially express a faster pace‐of‐life.