, Volume 99, Issue 1-2, pp 60-65

Cannibalism and early instar survival in a larval damselfly

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Cannibalism by larval damselflies late in larval development on larvae a few instars smaller has been widely documented. I examine here the survival of eggs oviposited near the end of the flight season of adult Enallagma boreale in the presence and absence of potential cannibals, individuals that hatched from eggs earlier in the season, over an extended part of the life-cycle. The role of competition as a modifier of cannibalism was examined by manipulating egg density, environmental productivity, and habitat complexity. Survival in the absence of potential cannibals ranged from 5% to nearly 50% but was only 0–3% in the presence of cannibals. Survival of small larvae was related to manipulations of habitat complexity but not initial density or resources. There were no significant interactions of the presence of large larvae with other experimental treatments on the survival of small larvae. The mean size of small larvae was greater in the presence of cannibals. This may be because the cannibalism treatment reduced the density of small larvae and reduced competition for resources, or that the cannibals preferentially fed on small larvae and only relatively large individuals remained. Fertilization of the habitat or manipulating the initial density of small larvae did not affect mass of small larvae at the end of the experiment, which would be expected if small larvae were affected by competition for resources. Potential cannibals, however, emerged at higher mass when small larvae were present at low density and when productivity of the habitat was increased. This suggests that the negative effect of competition by small larvae outweighs the positive effect of being potential prey for large larvae.