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(1) The major factor affecting the evolutionary optimization of animal life histories is the energy balance. Therefore, previous studies have focused on the energy costs and benefits of adaptations, the efficiency of energy acquisition and investment, and energy budget limitations. However, in heterotrophs, the problem of maintaining stoichiometric balance appears to be equally important. Mismatches between the chemical composition of consumer tissues and that of food resources strongly affect the major life history traits (growth rates, body size, reproduction strategies, survival, etc.). Therefore, the proportions of elements in food and various tissues may represent an index of choice in studies focusing on the mechanisms that shape plant-animal interactions. In this review, we presented a framework of ecological stoichiometry that considers energy and matter in ecological interactions. Our findings demonstrated how the use of this framework might result in novel and valuable data with the potential to contribute to a better understanding of plant-animal interactions. (2) In this review, we focused on plant-herbivorous insect interactions in terrestrial ecosystems. The use of ecological stoichiometry to provide insights into plant-herbivorous insect interactions was presented, and recent advances in ecological stoichiometry were summarized. (3) We introduced the use of the trophic stoichiometric ratio (TSR) index as a useful tool for identifying and comparing fitness-limiting effects posed on herbivores by the elemental composition of their hosts, which may shape plant-herbivorous insect interactions. (4) Additionally, we presented a case study of a mason bee (Osmia bicornis) feeding on pollen. We concluded that the growth and development and thus the fitness of the bee might be co-limited by the scarcity of N, K and Na in pollen. Cocoon production may be limited by a greater number of micronutrients. Since O. bicornis may experience limitations to the growth and development of its body and cocoon production because of the availability of certain elements in its food, the amounts of potentially limiting elements should be maximized during pollen collection by the adult female bee for its progeny. Therefore, ecological stoichiometry may shape the interactions of pollen eaters with their host plants. (5) The framework of ecological stoichiometry may be used in future studies investigating the interactions related to the nutritional co-limitation of herbivore growth and development as well as fitness.

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This page is a summary of: Plant–insect interactions: the role of ecological stoichiometry, Acta Agrobotanica, March 2017, Polish Botanical Society,
DOI: 10.5586/aa.1710.
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