Sustained high levels of foliar herbivory of the mangrove Rhizophora stylosa by a moth larva Doratifera stenosa (Limacodidae) in north-eastern Australia

Duke, Norman C. (2002) Sustained high levels of foliar herbivory of the mangrove Rhizophora stylosa by a moth larva Doratifera stenosa (Limacodidae) in north-eastern Australia. Wetlands Ecology and Management, 10 (5). pp. 403-419.

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The moth larva, Doratifera stenosa (Lepidoptera: Limacodidae), was observed feeding voraciously in great numbers on mature leaves of Rhizophora stylosa in mangroves of Port Curtis in Central Queensland, NE Australia. This behaviour was considered unusual since mangroves, and Rhizophora species in particular, reportedly have few herbivores and relatively low levels of herbivory, less than 10%. During a two year period (1996-1998), larvae were observed consuming around 30-40% of leaves in the canopy each year, and the mangroves appeared able to sustain these high levels of herbivory. The impact on trees was assessed in conjunction with a study of the herbivore, its behaviour and life history in an attempt to explain the occurrence. Larvae were up to 1-2 cm each in length, bright green and gregarious, with numerous small, stinging hairs along their upper bodies. Feeding was in small cohort groups of 5-70 individuals which broke up immediately prior to each moult when they regrouped in much larger numbers of mixed cohorts to form single-file processions across branches, stems and prop roots. In this way, they moved to neighbouring trees with less affected foliage. One of the outstanding characteristics of this herbivore was its ability not to kill host trees although it appeared quite capable of doing so if it had remained on individual trees. By moving from tree to tree, the herbivore was able to heavily crop Rhizophora foliage in an apparently sustainable manner. These findings demonstrate the role and importance of foliar herbivory in severely affected forests and how such instances best not be ignored or treated as curiosities in future assessments of herbivory and forest turnover in mangrove ecosystems.

Item ID: 34953
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1572-9834
Keywords: mangrove; plants; Rhizophora; herbivory; fauna; insects; caterpillars; moth; Doratifera; leaf loss; consumption; life cycle; long term; Gladstone; Port Curtis; Queensland; Australia; IWP
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2016 05:00
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 40%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060808 Invertebrate Biology @ 40%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050102 Ecosystem Function @ 20%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 20%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 30%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
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