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Caught on camera: Field imagery reveals the unexpected importance of vertebrates for biological control of the banana weevil (Cosmopolites sordidus Col. Curculionidae)

  • Tresson, Paul
  • Tixier, Philippe
  • Puech, William
  • Abufera, Bernard Raymond
  • Wyvekens, Antoine
  • Carval, Dominique
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2022
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Understanding of ecological interactions is necessary for the application of biological control. Banana is the second most produced fruit worldwide and the banana weevil (Cosmopolites sordidus) is the most important pest of banana and plantain. Its biological control remains challenging because of the robustness and cryptic behaviour of the adult and the hidden development of larval stages. Researchers therefore tend to favour conservation biological control of this pest. The commonly used methods for measuring the effects of natural enemies on the regulation of this pest focus on invertebrates and may underestimate the role of vertebrates on biological control. Using cameras, we recorded the predation of sentinel adult weevils in banana plots in La Réunion island that differed in weevil infestation levels and in animal biodiversity. To facilitate image analysis, we used background subtraction to isolate moving parts of image sequences and thus detect predators and predation events. Our cameras recorded only vertebrates as predators of adult banana weevils. The most important predator appeared to be the Asian shrew (Suncus murinus), which was responsible for 67% of the predation events. Other predators included the house mouse (Mus musculus), the oriental garden lizard (Calotes versicolor), and the guttural toad (Sclerophrys gutturalis). The exact time of predation events were determined from the images metadata. It was thus possible to identify predator foraging periods that coincided with activity of adult weevils. Our results confirm that images provide useful information for biological and ecological studies. Along with other recent studies, our results suggest that the role of vertebrates in biological control may be underestimated. Based on these results, we advocate for several management implications such as the installation of hedges, grasslands, and ponds to favour these vertebrate predators of the banana weevil, possibly also favouring other vertebrate and invertebrate natural enemies.

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