Patterns of Abundance, Distribution, and Alary Polymorphism among the Salt Marsh Delphacidae (Homoptera: Fulgoroidea) of Northwest Florida

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1. The species of Delphacidae captured in nearly 16000 sweeps of salt marsh vegetation in Northwest Florida, U.S.A., are examined. Individuals belonging to fourteen species were captured during the 15-month study, a somewhat larger number than is found in most locations.

2. Abundances ranged from one to 1064 individuals per species. The abundances, habitat preferences, and patterns in wing-polymorphism among the species collected were similar to those reported previously from other locations, but important differences were found which reflect the vegetational composition typical of our study area.

3. Wing-morph ratio differences between delphacid populations may reflect strategies for dealing with differences in stability and distribution of their respective habitats. The ratio of macropter/brachypter individuals in various populations of delphacids investigated correlates with the probability that a dispersing individual will find a more suitable habitat patch. The phenomenon is illustrated with a comparison of wing-morph ratios in populations of Prokelisia marginata (Van Duzee) from locations which differ in the extent, distribution, and stability of their stands of Spartina alterniflora Loisl. (smooth cordgrass), the common host of P.marginata.

4. Macroptery is favoured in Atlantic Coast marshes, where habitat patches are differentially suitable, but extensive and predictable. The probability of finding a better patch by dispersing is therefore high.

5. Brachyptery predominates at Cedar Key, Florida, where habitat patches are extensive, stable, and equally suitable during most of the year; and at St Marks, Florida, where resource patches are small, infrequent, isolated, and regularly disturbed. Under these conditions, the probability of finding a better patch by dispersal is low.

6. The conditions at St Marks may have promoted a local host expansion by P.marginata at this location.

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Ecological Entomology, v. 6, issue 3, p 285-291