Diversity Of Insectivory

A simple list of the insectivorous terrestrial animals would be lengthy and include many freshwater fishes, most frogs and salamanders, lizards and snakes, and birds and mammals. Because marine ecosystems do not include many insects, the incidence of insectivory among marine invertebrates and vertebrates is much less common.

In freshwater fishes, insects are ubiquitous and widely consumed. In streams, for example, 70 to 90% of the macroinvertebrates are insects, comprising as much as 99% of the numbers of individual organisms and 99% of the biomass. Fishes take advantage of these abundant resources and consume insects from all of the 13 orders of insects with aquatic life stages.

Terrestrial salamanders and almost all frogs, which are often filter feeders or herbivores as larvae, become predominantly insectivorous as adults. Frogs and salamanders that remain aquatic, or become so secondarily, possess a wide array of dietary choices that can include other aquatic life, including (but not limited to) insect adults or larvae.

Lizards, more so than snakes, include insects in the diet. Consumption of insects also occurs in other reptiles such as turtles and juvenile crocodilians. Insect prey selected by lizards is somewhat size dependent; smaller lizards consume more small insects, whereas larger lizards can also consume larger insects. Some lizards that are insectivores as juveniles become more herbivorous as adults. In snakes, smaller insectivores become more carnivorous as they get larger, focusing on other vertebrate prey, especially mammals, frogs, and other snakes. Among some groups of lizards and snakes, specialization for insectivory is a familiar pattern; in these instances, ants and termites are most frequently consumed.

There are many birds that consume insects as a dominant part of the diet. Some of these insectivorous lineages include pipits and wagtails (Motacillidae), bulbuls and allies (Campephagidae, Pycnonotidae, Chloropseidae), waxwings and allies (Ptilogonatidae, Bombycillidae, Dulidae), dippers (Cinclidae), warblers and gnatcatchers (Sylviidae, Parulidae), flycatchers (Muscicapidae), and titmice, nuthatches, and treecreepers (Paridae, Sittidae, Certhiidae). Many birds capture insect prey in flight, whereas other birds forage in shrubs and trees or on the ground. Some birds specialize by obtaining insect food grooming large mammals or following behind large mammalian herbivores and foraging on the insects disturbed by large mammal movements.

Mammals include many insectivorous groups, some gen-eralists and others obligate specialists. Most of those that specialize in eating insects eat either ants or termites. Generalized insectivores will eat insects along with other arthropods such as centipedes, millipedes, spiders, and scorpions. Marsupials, bats, primates, rodents, carnivores, and other groups of mammals include insectivorous lineages. Specialized feeding on particular insects, especially ants and termites, occurs among a few frogs, many lizards, and some snakes and has occurred in several different lineages of mammals (see Table I).

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