Asymmetrical intra-guild predation and niche differentiation in two pit-building antlions

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution
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  • 1 Department of Life Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel
  • | 2 School of Zoology, Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
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Co-occurring species often compete with each other directly and indirectly. Intra-guild predation (IGP) is an extreme manifestation of direct competition, which involves the attack, killing and eating of potential competitors. We studied the competitive interactions between two pit-building antlion species that co-occur in the Israeli desert: Myrmeleon hyalinus residing in the more productive sandy soil, and Cueta lineosa solely inhabiting poorer loess soils. To understand the mechanisms driving C. lineosa away from the more productive habitat, we explored the factors triggering IGP of one antlion species on the other. We tested whether IGP is affected by soil type, depth and temperature. IGP was asymmetrical with M. hyalinus preying on C. lineosa, and it intensified as the size difference favoring the former increased. Interactive rather than additive effects governed IGP, which was lowest in sandy soil combined with low temperature, and highest in shallow loess soil. C. lineosa possesses a smaller head and thorax relative to its abdomen compared to M. hyalinus, providing a possible explanation for the advantage of M. hyalinus in direct competition. We then focused on the weaker competitor, C. lineosa, examining how it copes with competition induced by M. hyalinus. Both the growth and survival rates of C. lineosa declined in the presence of M. hyalinus. The asymmetrical IGP C. lineosa experiences from M. hyalinus combined with its competitive inferiority may explain why it is mostly found in poor habitats, while its intra-guild competitor is abundant in the more productive habitats.

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