Interspecific infanticide deters predators


  • Editor, M. E. Hochberg

Correspondence to: Arne Janssen E-mail:


It is well known that young, small predator stages are vulnerable to predation by conspecifics, intra-guild competitors or hyperpredators. It is less known that prey can also kill vulnerable predator stages that present no danger to the prey. Since adult predators are expected to avoid places where their offspring would run a high predation risk, this opens the way for potential prey to deter dangerous predator stages by killing vulnerable predator stages. We present an example of such a complex predator–prey interaction. We show that (1) the vulnerable stage of an omnivorous arthropod prey discriminates between eggs of a harmless predator species and eggs of a dangerous species, killing more eggs of the latter; (2) prey suffer a minor predation risk from newly hatched predators; (3) adult predators avoid ovipositing near killed predator eggs, and (4) vulnerable prey near killed predator eggs experience an almost fourfold reduction of predation. Hence, by attacking the vulnerable stage of their predator, prey deter adult predators and thus reduce their own predation risk. This provides a novel explanation for the killing of vulnerable stages of predators by prey and adds a new dimension to anti-predator behaviour.