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Psyche: A Journal of Entomology


True omnivores that feed on both plant and animal tissues are not additive combinations of herbivore and predator (carnivore). Because true omnivores must distribute adaptive feeding decisions among two disparate tissue types, understanding the context that plants provide for foraging is important to understand their role in food webs. We varied prey and plant resources to investigate the plant context in an omnivorous true bug, Dicyphus hesperus. The contribution of plant species to fitness was unimportant in water acquisition decisions, but affected numbers of prey consumed over longer periods. In plant communities, in the absence of prey, D. hesperus moved to plants with the highest resource quality. Unlike pure predators facing declining prey, omnivores can use a nondepleting resource to fund future foraging without paying a significant cost. However, the dual resource exploitation can also impose significant constraints when both types of resources are essential. The presence of relatively profitable plants that are spatially separate from intermediate consumer populations could provide a mechanism to promote stability within food webs with plant-feeding omnivores. The effects of context in omnivores will require adding second-order terms to the Lotka-Volterra structure to explicitly account for the kinds of interactions we have observed here.

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