, Volume 77, Issue 1, pp 81–90

Predator avoidance, microhabitat shift, and risk-sensitive foraging in larval dragonflies

  • C. L. Pierce
Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/BF00380929

Cite this article as:
Pierce, C.L. Oecologia (1988) 77: 81. doi:10.1007/BF00380929


Dragonfly larvae (Odonata: Anisoptera) are often abundant in shallow freshwater habitats and frequently co-occur with predatory fish, but there is evidence that they are underutilized as prey. This suggests that species which successfully coexist with fish may exhibit behaviors that minimize their risk of predation. I conducted field and laboratory experiments to determine whether: 1) dragonfly larvae actively avoid fish, 2) microhabitat use and foraging success of larvae are sensitive to predation risk, and 3) vulnerability of larvae is correlated with microhabitat use. I experimentally manipulated the presence of adult bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus) in defaunated patches of littoral substrate in a small pond to test whether colonizing dragonfly larvae would avoid patches containing fish. The two dominant anisopteran species, Tetragoneuria cynosura and Ladona deplanata (Odonata: Libellulidae), both strongly avoided colonizing patches where adult bluegills were present. Laboratory experiments examined the effects of diel period and bluegills on microhabitat use and foraging success, using Tetragoneuria, Ladona and confamilial Sympetrum semicictum, found in a nearby fishless pond. Tetragoneuria and Ladona generally occupied microhabitats offering cover, whereas Sympetrum usually occupied exposed locations. Bluegills induced increased use of cover in all three species, and use of cover also tended to be higher during the day than at night. Bluegills depressed foraging in Tetragoneuria and to a lesser extent in Ladona, but foraging in Sympetrum appeared unaffected. Other laboratory experiments indicated that Sympetrum were generally more vulnerable than Tetragoneuria or Ladona to bluegill predation, and that vulnerability was positively correlated with use of exposed microhabitats. Both fixed (generally low use of exposed microhabitats, diel microhabitat shifts) and reactive (predator avoidance, predator-sensitive microhabitat shifts) behavioral responses appear to reduce risk of predation in dragonfly larvae. Evidence indicates that vulnerability probably varies widely among species and even among instars within species, and suggests that spatial distributions of relatively vulnerable species may be limited by their inability to avoid predation.

Key words

Microhabitat shift Odonata Predator avoidance Risk-sensitive foraging 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. L. Pierce
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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