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Variation in the guild composition of herbivorous insect assemblages among co-occurring plant species


*Corresponding author. Present address: PO Box 314, Victor Harbor, South Australia 5211, Australia (Email:


Variation in plant traits among plant species may promote the development of a characteristic functional assemblage of insect herbivores associated with each plant species. However, only a small number of studies have detailed the representation of several herbivore guilds among co-occurring plant species to determine whether the functional structure of herbivorous insect assemblages varies widely and consistently among plant species. The present study provides one of the few published data sets reporting on the density of several guilds of insect herbivores among numerous plant species. Variation in guild associations with plant phenology and season are also described. Insect herbivores were divided into 10 guilds, and the representation of these guilds was examined for 18 co-occurring plant species. Guild densities and assemblage composition varied significantly among plant species, even when variation over time was taken into account. Variation in guild densities and assemblage composition were not strongly related to the taxonomic relationships of the plants. The highest densities of several guilds occurred in spring and summer, although other guilds were not strongly seasonal. Certain guilds were strongly associated with the presence of new leaves, whereas other guilds appeared to prefer mature leaves. This resulted in assemblage differences between samples containing new and mature leaves and samples containing mature leaves only. Even though the timing and duration of leaf and flower production varied among plant species, this did not explain all variation in guild densities among plant species. It is suggested that additional factors, including plant traits, are contributing to the wide and consistent variation in herbivore assemblage composition among plant species.