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The involvement of sand disturbance, cannibalism and intra-guild predation in competitive interactions among pit-building antlion larvae.

Research paper by Erez D ED Barkae, Inon I Scharf, Aziz A Subach, Ofer O Ovadia

Indexed on: 15 Oct '10Published on: 15 Oct '10Published in: Zoology



Abstract

Competition in trap-building predators such as antlion larvae is a complex biotic interaction, potentially involving exploitation competition, sand throwing (i.e., interference competition), cannibalism and intra-guild predation. We investigated the short-term behavioral and developmental responses of the strict sit-and-wait antlion predator Myrmeleon hyalinus to sand disturbance (i.e., quantification of the impact of severe sand throwing), and to con- and hetero-specific competition by a larger sit-and-pursue antlion species Lopezus fedtschenkoi. We found that antlions subjected to sand disturbances reduced their pit construction activity and relocated less often. Furthermore, the reduction in pit construction activity was stronger among antlions subjected to disturbances prior to feeding. Almost no death occurred during the sand disturbance experiment, but as expected, disturbances caused reductions in the relative growth rates of antlions. This negative effect was stronger in the group exposed to sand disturbances prior to feeding. The presence of the sit-and-pursue competitor led to reductions both in pit construction and in relocation activities of M. hyalinus. Although the per-capita food supply was identical in both experiments, only 48% of M. hyalinus larvae survived the competition experiment, and this pattern was consistent between the con- and hetero-specific treatments. However, in the presence of hetero-specific competitors, the relative growth rate of surviving larvae was significantly lower than that measured in the presence of con-specific competitors. Our study demonstrates that investigating the different components of complex biotic interactions can markedly improve our understanding of how these different factors interact to influence the behavior and life history of organisms.