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The influence of nutritional status on the feeding behaviour of the field slug, Deroceras reticulatum (Muller)

By R. T. Cook, S. E. R. Bailey, C. R. McCrohan, B. Nash and R. M. Woodhouse


The field slug, Deroceras reticulatum, a common pest of agricultural and horticultural crops, is a generalist herbivore with distinct preferences for particular food items. However, these preferences are not fixed, but are influenced by the recent dietary history of the slugs. In particular, slugs tend to select novel food items ('neophilia'). We investigated the basis of such influences, using artificial diets in which protein and carbohydrate composition could be controlled and non-nutritional ('secondary') chemicals added as flavours. The slugs showed no general inclination for neophilia based on taste alone. There was a possible learned association between protein content and taste, but this was weakly expressed. However, the slugs selected food items, when given a choice, containing nutrients that were deficient in earlier diets, even though all the food items contained the same familiar secondary taste chemicals. Injections of missing nutrients into the haemocoel of slugs inhibited such changes in food preference, indicating that slugs' feeding preferences are influenced directly by their internal nutritional status. We suggest that neophilia in D. reticulatum is a physiological response to a nutritional imbalance arising from a suboptimal diet. Copyright 2000 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour

Topics: biological
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2000
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