Consumption of fallen fruit

Of course, not all plant detritus is so difficult for detritivores to digest. Fallen fruit, for example, is readily exploited by many kinds of opportunist feeders, including insects, birds and mammals. However, like all detritus, decaying fruits have associated with them a microflora, in this case mainly dominated by yeasts. Fruit-flies (Drosophila spp.) specialize at feeding on these yeasts and their by-products; and in fruit-laden domestic compost heaps in Australia, five species of fruit-fly show differing preferences for particular categories of rotting fruit and vegetables (Oakeshott et al., 1982). Drosophila hydei and D. immigrans prefer melons, D. busckii specializes on rotting vegetables, while D. simulans is catholic in its tastes for a variety of fruits. The common D. melanogaster, however, shows a clear preference for rotting grapes and pears. Note that rotting fruits can be highly alcoholic. Yeasts are commonly the early colonists and the fruit sugars are fermented to alcohol, which is normally toxic, eventually even to the yeasts themselves. D. melanogaster tolerates such high levels of alcohol because it produces large quantities of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), an enzyme that breaks down ethanol to harmless metabolites. Decaying vegetables produce detritus and microbial organisms are typically consumed together fruit-flies and rotten fruit

Figure 11.14 The cumulative mass loss of beech leaf litter and feces of grazing caterpillars (Operophthera fagata) in the presence and absence of feeding by isopods. Standard errors are shown. (After Zimmer & Topp, 2002.)

Figure 11.14 The cumulative mass loss of beech leaf litter and feces of grazing caterpillars (Operophthera fagata) in the presence and absence of feeding by isopods. Standard errors are shown. (After Zimmer & Topp, 2002.)

little alcohol, and D. busckii, which is associated with them, produces very little ADH. Intermediate levels of ADH were produced by the species preferring moderately alcoholic melons. The boozy D. melanogaster is also associated with winery wastes!

Worm Farming

Worm Farming

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