Condition and size of damselflies: a field study of food limitation
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Based on evidence from field manipulations, several authors have recently suggested that interference competition among larval odonates reduces individual growth rates and biomass by reducing foraging rates. This study was designed to test the effects of food shortage on "condition" (relative mass per unit head width) of larval Ischnura verticalis (Odonata: Coenagrionidae) under laboratory conditions and to use these results to estimate the degree of food shortage of larvae under naturally occurring field conditions. In the laboratory, there were marked differences in condition of larvae fed diets ranging from ad libitum feeding with worms to ad libitum feeding with Daphnia 1 day out of every 8. Condition of larvae collected from May through October from 17 different sites in southern Ontario indicated that, for most of the year, larvae had conditions similar to those fed ad libitum with Daphnia in the laboratory. There was no evidence that larval condition was related to population density. Condition of larvae in most sites during July was similar to that of larvae fed poor diets in the laboratory. It is unlikely that the low conditions were due to competition as there were no correlations with density across sites and population densities during July were at their lowest. Adult head widths showed a seasonal decline from mid June to the end of the flight season. There was no evidence that head widths were related to population density although there was some evidence that head widths of males were positively related to larval condition. My results do not support the hypothesis that competition is important in affecting foraging rates and subsequent development of larvae. Contrasts between my results and other studies may stem from difficulties with the interpretation of field experiments, that densities in my study may have been low due to fish predation, and/or that I. verticalis larvae are slow moving relative to other larvae and thus less likely to interact.
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