Conflict between antipredator and antiparasite behaviour in larval damselflies
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Larval damselflies resist infestation by parasitic larval mites by exhibiting behaviours such as grooming, crawling, swimming, and striking at host-seeking mites. Larval damselflies are known to increase time spent in these behaviours in the presence of mites but reduce time spent in these behaviours in the presence of fish predators. The presence of both fish and larval mites presents an obvious conflict: a larval damselfly may actively avoid parasitism by mites, thus increasing its risk of predation, or it may reduce its activity when fish are present, thus increasing its risk of parasitism. We analysed the behaviour of larval Ischnura verticalis in an experiment where we crossed presence and absence of fish with presence and absence of larval mites. Presence of mites induced a large increase in activity of larval I. verticalis but fish had no effect and there were no interpretable interactions between effects of mites and fish. Subsequent experiments indicated that larval I. verticalis in the presence of both mites and fish were more likely to be attacked and killed by fish than those exposed only to fish. The high activity level of I. verticalis larvae in the presence of both fish and mites may suggest that costs of parasitism are high, or that under field conditions it is rare for larvae to be in the immediate presence of both fish predators and potentially parasitic mites.
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