Lack of prey switching and strong preference for mosquito prey by a temporary pond specialist predator

Ross N. Cuthbert, Tatenda Dalu, Ryan J. Wasserman, Olaf L. F. Weyl, P. William Froneman, Amanda Callaghan, Jaimie T. A. Dick

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1. The strengths of trophic interactions within ecosystems can be mediated by complex mechanisms that require elucidation if researchers are to understand and predict population‐ and community‐level stabilities. Where multiple prey types co‐occur, prey switching (i.e. frequency‐dependent predation) by predators may facilitate low‐density prey refuge effects which promote coexistence. On the other hand, lack of switching and strong preferences by predators can strongly suppress prey populations, which is especially important considering vector species such as mosquitoes.

2. The present study quantifies prey switching and preference patterns of the temporary pond specialist copepod Lovenula raynerae towards larvae of the medically important Culex pipiens mosquito complex in the presence of different proportions of alternative Daphnia pulex prey. Further, it examines whether prey switching and preferences are contingent on the sex of the predator.

3. Lovenula raynerae exhibited a lack of prey switching and strong preference for larval mosquito prey overall, irrespective of predator sex. Also, when larval mosquitoes were available in higher proportions over daphniids, the strength of this positive selectivity increased. There was very little low‐density refuge for mosquitoes where they were rare.

4. Lack of prey switching and strong preferences towards mosquitoes by predatory paradiaptomid copepods may enhance population‐level regulation of disease vector mosquitoes that exploit temporary pond‐style habitats. Accordingly, the conservation and promotion of these predators might enable better management of medically important species across landscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
JournalEcological Entomology
Early online date10 Sep 2019
Publication statusEarly online date - 10 Sep 2019

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