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Studies of elemental composition as a biological marker in insects. IV. The influence of soil type and host-plant on elemental composition of Agrotis segetum (Denis & Schiffermüller) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 July 2009

P. L. Sherlock
Affiliation:
Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpenden, Herts., A L5 2JQ, UK
J. Bowden
Affiliation:
Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpenden, Herts., A L5 2JQ, UK
P. G. N. Digby
Affiliation:
Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpenden, Herts., A L5 2JQ, UK

Abstract

Wavelength dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometry was used to make quantitative determinations of the elemental composition of adults of Agrotis segetum (Denis & Schiffermüller) that had been reared on one of eight soil-plant combinations or a semi-synthetic diet. Robust-means principal components analysis (RMPCA) of the data for eight elements and all treatments (except for the semi-synthetic diet) separated the means of the groups by soil type, irrespective of host-plant. However, individuals could not be separated until the data were grouped into the two host-plant sub-sets. The main discriminant, Al, was of doubtful validity and was therefore excluded from the data which were reanalysed by RMPCA. This failed to discriminate either group means or individuals until each host-plant sub-set was analysed separately; then, individuals could be differentiated by soil type although not as distinctly as when Al was included in the data. There was, however, a clear separation of the sexes because of a higher content of K and lower content of Ca in females; these two elements, together with S and Cl, were the main discriminants of soil type. It is concluded that larval host-plant is a significant factor in the elemental composition of adults of A. segetum but limiting and confounding in respect of identification of soil type and, therefore, geographical source. This conclusion probably applies also to other similar polyphagous species, but specific differences in biology and behaviour may influence the applicability of the technique to field studies.

Type
Original Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1985

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