The interplay between foraging mode, habitat structure, and predator presence in antlions

Research paper by Reut Loria, Inon Scharf, Aziz Subach, Ofer Ovadia

Indexed on: 13 Feb '08Published on: 13 Feb '08Published in: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology


Antlion larvae are sand-dwelling insect predators, which ambush small arthropod prey while buried in the sand. In some species, the larvae construct conical pits and are considered as sit-and-wait predators which seldom relocate while in other species, they ambush prey without a pit but change their ambush site much more frequently (i.e., sit-and-pursue predators). The ability of antlion larvae to evade some of their predators which hunt them on the sand surface is strongly constrained by the degree of sand stabilization or by sand depth. We studied the effect of predator presence, predator type (active predatory beetle vs. sit-and-pursue wolf spider), and sand depth (shallow vs. deep sand) on the behavioral response of the pit building Myrmeleon hyalinus larvae and the sit-and-pursue Lopezus fedtschenkoi larvae. Predator presence had a negative effect on both antlion species activity. The sit-and-wait M. hyalinus larvae showed reduced pit-building activity, whereas the sit-and-pursue L. fedtschenkoi larvae decreased relocation activity. The proportion of relocating M. hyalinus was negatively affected by sand depth, whereas L. fedtschenkoi was negatively affected also by the predator type. Specifically, the proportion of individual L. fedtschenkoi that relocated in deeper sand was lower when facing the active predator rather than the sit-and-pursue predator. The proportion of M. hyalinus which constructed pits decreased in the presence of a predator, but this pattern was stronger when exposed to the active predator. We suggest that these differences between the two antlion species are strongly linked to their distinct foraging modes and to the foraging mode of their predators.