Alina Avanesyan
Among the redwoods -- Muir Woods

Review paper published!

– October 11, 2018

My systematic review and meta-analysis on feeding preferences of acridid grasshoppers on native vs. introduced plants has just been published in Plants, Special Issue “Plants Interacting with other Organisms: Insects”. It has been quite a long and challenging process with 3 rounds of revision and incorporating comments from 5(!) reviewers, but I’m really excited to see it published.

Differential grasshopper, Melanoplus differentials (Orthoptera: Acrididae), eating our palm tree on our balcony, on the 3rd floor.
Photo credit: Sergey

This systematic review entitled “Should I eat or should I go? Acridid grasshoppers and their novel host plants: potential for biotic resistance” aimed to identify patterns of grasshopper feeding preferences for native versus introduced plants and, consequently, a potential of grasshoppers to provide biotic resistance of native communities. I’ve worked on this review for a total of almost 2 years: I collected 2146 studies (from six databases) published during 1967–2017. Only 13 studies satisfied all of my inclusion criteria; from these, I was able to extract 63 records of feeding preference trials for 28 North-American grasshopper species. These trials involved direct comparison between consumed native and introduced plant material, and these records were included in the analysis.

I’m going to present a poster on this paper at the upcoming ESA meeting in Vancouver, CA. So I discussed with my PI the best way of presenting it since it is virtually impossible to fit all the details and analysis in one poster. His advice was very simple: to present the main message I’d like to tell people and support it with evidence. I was thinking about this one message, and I came up with five(!) things which were the most surprising for me and which I definitely would want to share:

  1. Acridid grasshoppers prefer to feed on introduced plants.
  2. Most of these plants are highly invasive.
  3. Grasshoppers prefer to feed on them regardless the experimental conditions (greenhouse, field, etc.) or plant material offered (clipped leaves, stems, plants in pots, etc.).
  4. The authors use a very wide range of measurements. From 63 records I counted 35 different measurements the authors used to assess grasshopper preferences.
  5. Most of these measurements were not standardized. Only 12 out of 35 measurements were standardized in some way (by time or grasshopper weight).

I collected these data and wrote the main parts of these manuscript while we lived in Iowa. So the graphical abstract (see above) is special for me: it is a shot of a grasshopper eating our palm tree on our balcony in Iowa, on the 3rd floor!