Get access

Dispersal capability in a habitat specialist bush cricket: the role of population density and habitat moisture


Dominik Poniatowski, Department of Community Ecology, Institute of Landscape Ecology, University of Münster, Robert-Koch-Straße 28, 48149 Münster, Germany. E-mail:


1. In fragmented landscapes many insect species depend on a regular exchange of individuals between subpopulations to ensure the persistence of the population. Thus, the ability to disperse is of particular relevance.

2. However, in some insect species mobility is not a fixed trait. Hence, knowing the causes of phenotypic plasticity is of great importance when evaluating whether a species is able to survive in fragmented landscapes or not.

3. A multi-year field study was conducted to identify possible causes of macroptery in the wing-dimorphic habitat specialist Metrioptera brachyptera L. and to quantify its dispersal capability (% macropters). Therefore, 746 individuals of the species were caught on 135 plots. Additionally, environmental variables that possibly induce the development of macropters (population density and habitat moisture) were recorded.

4. Dispersal capability of M. brachyptera was very low. Less than 3% were long-winged. The statistical analysis revealed that the proportion of long-winged M. brachyptera was strongly correlated with high bush-cricket densities and not with habitat moisture.

5. The low dispersal capability of M. brachyptera leads to the conclusion that individual exchange between isolated populations is limited or even impossible. Habitat specialists, like M. brachyptera, may thus be unable to respond to rapid changes in the availability of suitable habitats by dispersing, and hence may be especially dependent on habitat management activities that promote the long-term stability of existing habitat patches.