Eur. J. Entomol. 109 (2): 229-234, 2012 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2012.030

Preference of larvae of Enallagma cyathigerum (Odonata: Coenagrionidae) for habitats of varying structural complexity

Ralf C.M. VERDONSCHOT1, Edwin T.H.M. PEETERS2
1 Department of Freshwater Ecology, Centre for Ecosystem Studies, Alterra, Wageningen UR, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA, Wageningen, The Netherlands; e-mail: ralf.verdonschot@wur.nl
2 Department of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA, Wageningen, The Netherlands

In macrophyte-rich lentic ecosystems, higher numbers of damselfly larvae occur in areas where there is structurally complex vegetation than in those where the plant architecture is relatively simple. Biotic interactions rather than morphological constraints are considered to underlie this pattern. We investigated whether the preference of the larvae of the damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum for a particular habitat was retained in absence of prey, predators and/or conspecifics. A series of laboratory choice experiments was conducted in which combinations of sediment and artificial plants differing in structural complexity were offered simultaneously to the larvae. Larvae preferred patches with structurally complex vegetation over patches with simply structured vegetation or lacking vegetation. Patches with simply structured vegetation were preferred over those with bare sediment, but the number of larvae showing a clear choice, which is regarded as an indication of the strength of the preference for a particular habitat, was relatively low compared to the number of individuals responding when complex vegetation was present. Based on the results presented, we conclude that the preference of E. cyathigerum larvae for structurally complex vegetation is independent of the presence of predators, prey or competitors. This suggests that this behaviour of the larvae is either learned or an innate response.

Keywords: Enallagma cyathigerum, habitat complexity, macroinvertebrate-macrophyte interaction, Zygoptera, phytomacrofauna, two-choice experiment

Received: June 1, 2011; Accepted: January 4, 2012; Published: April 5, 2012

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