Food and specific macronutrient limitation in an assemblage of predatory beetles

4 June 2019

Toft, Søren; Cuende, Elsa; Olesen, Astrid; Mathiesen, Anne; Meisner-Larsen, Maria; Jensen, Kim

Habitats vary in food resources with carnivores often being prey limited, but it is unclear whether habitats facilitate a nutritionally balanced diet. Two paradigms in nutritional ecology, Ecological Stoichiometry and Nutritional Geometry, predict that carnivores are limited mainly by protein or lipid, respectively. Using the carabid beetle Anchomenus dorsalis and 10 other predatory beetles from agricultural fields, we developed and tested two simple procedures for quantifying macronutrient-specific habitat conditions without requiring information about the natural prey. Both procedures assume that predators forage for nutrients rather than specific prey. Our results show that 10 of 11 species were food limited. Five species were lipid limited and one species was protein limited in the field. Co-existing predator species showed considerable segregation of fundamental and realized macronutritional niches, but these were independent of each other. A linear relationship between specific nutrient limitation and the target lipid:protein (L:P) intake ratio indicates that species with high L:P target are more protein limited while species with low L:P target are more lipid limited. The study illustrates how species within a natural assemblage vary in nutritional niche and in specific nutrient limitation.