Behavioral Variation of Microtylopteryx hebardi , a Treefall Gap Inhabiting Grasshopper of the Costa Rican Rainforest
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Invertebrates make up roughly 90% of animal biomass on the planet, insects constituting the majority of that life. It is therefore crucial that insects be a focus of conservation as the ecological impact of species, based on interspecies interactions and environmental factors, is not fully understood.The importance of the taxon can be deduced by its shear prevalence in the divisions of biomass; the possibility of extrapolating the important roles of a few insects like ants (ant-plant interactions) and termites (nutrient cycling) to the wider breadth of insect species does not seem unreasonable. However, it is important that this extrapolation occurs only in order to motivate interest in discovering the actual placement of insects in their interactive roles in ecosystems, as the actual impact by each species is sure to vary. I spent ten weeks at La Selva Biological Station of the Organization for Tropical Studies in the Sarapiqui region of Costa Rica conducting a study on variation in activity level between the sexes of Microtylopteryx hebardi, a light-gap inhabiting grasshopper. My research included the use of technology such as a videocamera and a scoring program, JWatcher, to improve the quantity and quality of analysis that can be carried out from the focal samples taken.Having a permanent record of the focal samples also allows other researchers to observe the same material as I did, allowing for different interpretations of data and improving the openness and honesty with which research is conducted. The results of my research show variation in activity level between the sexes, males being more active and coming into contact with more host-plant species than females. With additional data collected, including frass and plant samples, I will continue research to address behavior?s role in diet breadth, considering activity level as a possible explanation for variation in diet between the sexes, in conjunction with host-plant availability. This will provide a better understanding of the complexities of intra-species (male?female M. hebardi ) and inter-species (host-plant? M. hebardi) interaction and a more realistic picture of Microtylopteryx hebardi ?s role in the neotropical rainforest ecosystem.