Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are important limiting nutrients for plant production and consumer performance in a variety of ecosystems. As a result, the N:P stoichiometry of herbivores has received increased attention in ecology. However, the mechanisms by which herbivores maintain N:P stoichiometric homeostasis are poorly understood. Here, using a field manipulation experiment we show that the grasshopper Oedaleus asiaticus maintains strong N:P stoichiometric homeostasis regardless of whether grasshoppers were reared at low or high density. Grasshoppers maintained homeostasis by increasing P excretion when eating plants with higher P contents. However, while grasshoppers also maintained constant body N contents, we found no changes in N excretion in response to changing plant N content over the range measured. These results suggest that O. asiaticus maintains P homeostasis primarily by changing P absorption and excretion rates, but that other mechanisms may be more important for regulating N homeostasis. Our findings improve our understanding of consumer-driven P recycling and may help in understanding the factors affecting plant-herbivore interactions and ecosystem processes in grasslands.
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