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Keywords:

  • digestable carbohydrates;
  • feeding behoviour;
  • foraging;
  • geometric framework;
  • nutrient regulation;
  • nutrition;
  • omnivore;
  • protein;
  • Tettigoniidae

1. Omnivores by definition eat both plants and animals. However, little is known about how diet macronutrient content affects omnivore performance, or the extent to which they can regulate macronutrient intake. We assessed these questions using the salt marsh katydid, Conocephalus spartinae Fox (Tettigoniidae).

2. In our first experiment we used artificial diets with different protein–carbohydrate ratios to assess the effects of diet quality on survival, growth, and lipid accumulation. We found that diets with a high protein–carbohydrate ratio negatively affected Conocephalus survival. Among surviving individuals growth was not significantly different across the treatments, but lipid content decreased significantly as the protein–carbohydrate ratio of diets increased.

3. In a second experiment we explored the ability of Conocephalus to regulate their protein–carbohydrate intake. Results revealed that Conocephalus did not feed randomly when presented with two nutritionally complementary foods. A detailed analysis of their protein–carbohydrate intake revealed selection for a protein-biased diet, but a lack of tight regulate of protein–carbohydrate intake.

4. We discuss how key macronutrients can limit omnivores, and how nutritional flexibility may enable omnivores to persist in nutritionally heterogeneous environments.