• Ectotherm;
  • habitat selection;
  • microclimate

1. This study examines the extent to which thermal balance and thermoregulatory ability may contribute to habitat partitioning in insect herbivores.

2. The distribution of four species of grasshopper on a Breckland grass heath is described. Myrmeleotettix maculatus is restricted to short swards, Omocestus viridulus is restricted to long swards, and Chorthippus brunneus and Stenobothrus lineatus are found on swards of intermediate length.

3. Short swards are warmer on average than long swards, but lack cooler refuges on hot days.

4.Chorthippus brunneus and O. viridulus are better able to raise their body temperatures at low ambient temperatures than M. maculatus and S. lineatus. Omocestus viridulus is less able to reduce body temperature at high ambient temperature.

5.Myrmeleotettix maculatus may be precluded from inhabiting cooler long swards because of its inability to raise body temperatures at low ambient temperatures. Omocestus viridulus may avoid short swards because of the danger of overheating.

6. Thermoregulatory ability is a good predictor of the distribution of the grasshoppers in swards of differing length and microclimate.