Modulation in the feeding prey capture of the ant-lion, Myrmeleon crudelis



Ant-lions are pit-building larvae (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae), which possess relatively large mandibles used for catching and consuming prey. Few studies involving terrestrial arthropod larva have investigated prey capture behavior and kinematics and no study has shown modulation of strike kinematics. We examined feeding kinematics of the ant-lion, Myrmeleon crudelis, using high-speed video to investigate whether larvae modulate strike behavior based on prey location relative to the mandible. Based on seven capture events from five M. crudelis, the strike took 17.60 ± 2.92 msec and was characterized by near-simultaneous contact of both mandibles with the prey. Modulation of the angular velocity of the mandibles based on prey location was clearly demonstrated. M. crudelis larvae attempted to simultaneously contact prey with both mandibles by increasing mean angular velocity of the far mandible (65 ± 21 rad sec−1) compared with the near mandible (35 ± 14 rad sec−1). Furthermore, kinematic results showed a significant difference for mean angular velocity between the two mandibles (P<0.005). Given the lengthy strike duration compared with other fast-striking arthropods, these data suggest that there is a tradeoff between the ability to modulate strike behavior for accurate simultaneous mandible contact and the overall velocity of the strike. The ability to modulate prey capture behavior may increase dietary breadth and capture success rate in these predatory larvae by allowing responsive adjustment to small-scale variations in prey size, presentation, and escape response. J. Exp. Zool. 315:602–609, 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.