Data from: A spatial perspective on the phenological distribution of the spring woodland caterpillar peak

  • Jack Shutt (Creator)
  • Malcolm David Burgess (University of Exeter, RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire) (Creator)
  • Ally Phillimore (Creator)



Five files listed below:
JSMBAP_Caterpillars: Details of all individual caterpillars collected (by branch beating) and identified along our Scottish transect of 40 woodland field sites 2014-16.

JSMBAP_Branch_Beating: Details on each branch beating and whether or not a caterpillar was captured. From our Scottish transect 2014-16.

JSMBAP_Habitat: Habitat data of each of the 40 field sites along our Scottish transect.

JSMBAP_Nestbox_Details: Geographic details of each bird nestbox (and site) on our 40-site Scottish transect 2014-16.

JSMBAP_Tree_Phenology: Tree phenology data for each focal tree studied along our Scottish transect of 40 field sites 2014-16.


A classic system for studying trophic mismatch focuses on the timing of the spring caterpillar peak in relation to the breeding time and productivity of woodland passerine birds. Most work has been conducted in single-site oak woodlands and little is known about how insights generalise to other woodland types or across space. Here we present the results of a three-year study on the species composition and temporal distribution of the spring caterpillar peak on different tree taxa across 40 woodland sites spanning two degrees of latitude in Scotland. We used molecular barcoding to identify 62 caterpillar species, with winter moth (Operophtera brumata) the most abundant, comprising a third of the sample. Oak (Quercus sp.) and willow (Salix sp.) hosted significantly higher caterpillar abundances than other tree taxa, with winter moth exhibiting similar trends and invariantly proportionate across tree taxa. Caterpillar peak phenology was broadly similar between tree taxa. While latitude had little effect, increasing elevation increased the height of the caterpillar peak and retarded timing by 3.7 days/100m. These findings extend our understanding of how mismatch may play out spatially, with caterpillar peak date varying with elevation, and tree taxa varying in the caterpillar resource that they host.

Data Citation

When using this data, please cite the original publication:

Citation is not yet available for this publication from The American Naturalist. It will become available shortly after the publication appears.
Additionally, please cite the Dryad data package:

Shutt JD, Burgess MD, Phillimore AB (2019) Data from: A spatial perspective on the phenological distribution of the spring woodland caterpillar peak. Dryad Digital Repository.
Date made available24 Apr 2019
Geographical coverageScotland

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