The tough life of a plasticine caterpillar

PhD defence, Friday 30 June 2017. Marco Ferrante

2017.06.30 | Helle Karvonen

Marco Ferrante

Predation is an important ecological interaction, which has great economic importance in agroecosystems. Quantitative estimates of the predation intensity would be desirable, but these are not easy to obtain. During my PhD research, I investigated the usefulness of an artificial sentinel prey, the green plasticine caterpillar, to quantify predation intensity under field conditions. Artificial caterpillars, first used in 1994, became popular only in the last decade. I reviewed the available literature on the sentinel prey method, and used artificial caterpillars in an urbanisation study in Denmark, to test the effect of field margin manipulation in wheat, to evaluate the effect of landscape heterogeneity on predation in maize in Argentina, tested its suitability as a tool for post-market environmental monitoring of transgenic maize, and to quantify day vs. night predation in Danish forests. All data indicate that caterpillars are under high predation pressure, and top-down forces are important in ecological systems. Although they may underestimate predation pressure compared to reality, it is unlikely that this difference is determined mainly by chemical characteristics of the caterpillars.

The artificial caterpillars proved to be a valuable tool for monitoring predation in different habitats, providing direct quantification of the predation rate, and information about predator identity.



The PhD degree was completed at the Department of Agroecology, AU Flakkebjerg, Forsøgsvej 1, Slagelse,  Aarhus University.

This résumé is prepared by the PhD student.

Time: Friday 30 June 2017 at 13:00
Place: AU Flakkebjerg Campus, 4200 Slagelse, Forsøgsvej 1 Auditorium
Title of dissertation: Using artificial sentinel prey to quantify predation intensity under field conditions
Contact information: Marco Ferrante, e-mail: Marco.Ferrante@agro.au.dk, tel.: +45 50229827
Members of the assessment committee:
Associate Professor Bernd Wollenweber (Chair), Department of Agroecology, Flakkebjerg Research Centre, Aarhus University, Denmark Professor Myron Zalucki, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Associate Professor David Nash, Centre for Social Evolution, University of Copenhagen, Denmark


Main supervisor:
Professor & Senior Scientist Gabor L. Lövei, Department of Agroecology, Flakkebjerg Research Centre, Aarhus University, Denmark
Co-supervisor:
Senior Scientist Niels Holst, Department of Agroecology, Flakkebjerg Research Centre, Aarhus University, Denmark
Language: The PhD dissertation will be defended in English.

The defence is public.
The dissertation is available for reading at the Graduate School of Science and Technology/GSST, Ny Munkegade 120, building 1520, room 128-134, 8000 Aarhus C.

PhD defence
Comments on content: 
Revised 22.06.2017