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Annu Rev Entomol. 2002;47:267-97.

Omnivory in terrestrial arthropods: mixing plant and prey diets.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Many terrestrial communities include omnivorous arthropods that feed on both prey and plant resources. In this review we first discuss some unique morphological, physiological, and behavioral traits that enable omnivores to exploit such dissimilar foods, and we explore possible evolutionary pathways to omnivory. We then examine possible benefits and costs of omnivory, describe the relationships between omnivory and other high-order complex trophic interactions, and consider the stability level of communities with closed-loop omnivory. Finally, we explore some of the implications of omnivory for crop damage and for biological, chemical, and cultural control practices. We conclude that the growing realization of the ubiquity of omnivory in nature may require a change in our view of the structure and function of ecological systems.

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