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The effect of previous experience on trap construction and movement distance in a pit-building predator

Abstract

Wormlion larvae are sit-and-wait predators that construct cone-shaped pits in sandy patches to capture prey. Wormlions select microhabitats that feature favorable conditions for pit construction, in a similar way to other trap-building predators, like spiders and antlions. We investigated whether wormlions exhibit an experience-based behavioral plasticity in their pit construction behavior. In a laboratory experiment, pit sizes and relocation distances were compared between larvae that experienced either a period of unfavorable conditions, i.e., surface obstacles, shallow or coarse sand, or a period of favorable conditions, i.e., clear, deep, and fine sand and were able to construct pits undisturbed. We expected that wormlions experiencing improving conditions would build larger pits than those experiencing deteriorating conditions. In addition, we expected that larvae experiencing unfavorable conditions would be less choosy in their new microhabitat and move over shorter distances. We observed a certain effect of recent experience on the trap-building behavior; however, it was not consistent among treatments. Additionally, we detected a correlation between larval body mass, relocation distance, and pit area. These findings might suggest that past experience does not influence wormlion foraging behavior in a simple manner but that different types of experience induce different behavioral responses.

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Acknowledgments

The research leading to these results was funded by the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under REA grant agreement no. [333442].

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Correspondence to Roi Dor.

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Communicated by: Sven Thatje

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Adar, S., Scharf, I. & Dor, R. The effect of previous experience on trap construction and movement distance in a pit-building predator. Sci Nat 103, 83 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-016-1405-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-016-1405-9

Keywords

  • Trap-building predators
  • Vermileonidae
  • Vermileo
  • Wormlion
  • Foraging