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Caterpillars escape predation in habitat and thermal refuges

  • Author(s): Karban, R
  • Grof-Tisza, P
  • Mcmunn, M
  • Kharouba, H
  • Huntzinger, M
  • et al.

Published Web Location

https://doi.org/10.1111/een.12243
Abstract

© 2015 The Royal Entomological Society. 1. Climate and, therefore, abiotic conditions, are changing rapidly, and many ecological interactions depend on them. In this study, how abiotic conditions mediate a predator-prey interaction were examined. 2. Caterpillars of Platyprepia virginalis (Boisduval) (Arctiidae) were found previously to be more abundant in wet habitats and thick litter cover compared with drier habitats and little or no litter. We hypothesised that wet litter provided caterpillars with refuges from an important ant predator, Formica lasioides. It was further hypothesised that caterpillars would be able to move at lower temperatures than ants, thus providing them with a thermal refuge. 3. In the lab, caterpillars were more likely to escape ant predation and survive on wet litter and at lower temperatures. At all temperatures, ant recruitment was lower in wet litter than dry litter although ants were more active on litter than bare soil. Thus, wet litter may serve as a habitat refuge for caterpillars from ants. 4. Caterpillars were able to maintain activity at temperatures 8-14°C lower than F. lasioides. Thus colder temperatures may serve as a thermal refuge for caterpillars from ants. 5. It was hypothesised that caterpillars can escape ant predation when precipitation causes wet litter and at temperatures that they experience commonly in the field. This mismatch between caterpillars and their predators in ability to tolerate wet litter and low temperatures may affect their field distribution and abundance. Expected future warmer and drier conditions may not provide these refuges.

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