When fear kicks in: predator cues initially do not but eventually do affect insect distribution patterns in a new artificial pond cluster
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Evidence has accumulated that colonization of new habitats by aquatic insects is often selective rather than random. However, it is still unclear how habitat selection changes during a colonization sequence. We studied colonization of adult aquatic beetle and bug communities in cattle tanks exposed to fish predation or predation risk repeatedly over time. This allowed us to quantify the relative importance of habitat selection and consumption by a predator on communities. Habitat selection explained about 25 and 43% of the total predator effect on the final species richness and abundance, respectively. While other studies on fish cues affecting beetle colonization typically found effects on species richness in the first 3 weeks, we only saw a response after 6 weeks. The observed slower and weaker effects of predation risk on habitat selection by adults in the current study, conducted after the reproduction phase of aquatic beetles and bugs, might be due to seasonal variation in the response to predation risk. The relative importance of predation risk as a driver for habitat selection might be lower outside the reproduction period when the most vulnerable life stages are absent.
KeywordsAquatic insects Colonization Community assembly Fish predator Habitat selection Predation risk
We thank two anonymous reviewers for their contributions to improving the final manuscript substantially. We also thank the nature conservation organization Natuurpunt (section Hasselt-Zonhoven) for granting access to the Nature Reserve of Tommelen. HT is supported as a postdoctoral fellow by the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO), Grant No. 12N0415N.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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