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Isopod feeding experiment


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I am a college student and my biology lab is doing a (harmless) experiment with isopods. My group has decided to determine what food sources our collected isopods prefer, and I was wondering what foods anyone thinks are the most preferred food source for the little guys. Currently, we are planning on testing a fungus, some decaying wood, potatoes, and a certain species of leaf (I am open to species suggestions that can be found on Long Island). 

Please let me know of any other food sources we should be testing, thank you. 

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A few questions first. What specie(s) of isopods are you utilizing in the experiment? That will impact food preferences significantly. By fungus, do you mean the fruiting body? Isopods eat primarily mycelium, not the fruiting bodies of fungus. Though, I have seen strong feeding responses across many species when feeding powdered Cloud Ear Fungus (Auricularia) fruiting bodies. What specie of decaying wood and what type of rot? The preferred type would be hardwood species with advanced white rot. As far as potatoes, the skin contains solanine which may deter isopods from eating it versus the starchy interior. Are the leaves fresh, fallen and/or partially decayed? Fresh leaves contain various phytochemicals - alkaloids, flavonoids, phenols, resins, tannins, etc. that deter isopods from eating them. Fallen, decayed hardwood leaves although less nutritious are far more palatable. As far as fresh leaves, wild grape (Vitis), linden/basswood (Tilia), and mulberry (Morus) are eaten on occasion in my experience. The strongest feeding response I have seen for fresh leaves has been for Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea) by many Armadillidium species. A bit counterintuitive since Glechoma species are in the mint family and contain both aromatic and volatile oils.


As far as other foods, granivory is well documented in isopods. You may want to include various grains, pseudograins, and/or seeds. Algae are another possible food. You could include some type of seaweed such as kelp or laver. You may also want to include some type of lichen, as many isopods are known to eat them as well.


Obviously, an experiment of this type is subject to countless variables, which makes it even more interesting. Even more focused experiments comparing different types of a certain food item would be useful. Have fun with it and please detail your findings.

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