- 1The patterns of density-dependent resource competition and the mechanisms leading to competitive exclusion in an experimental two-species insect age-structured interaction were investigated.
- 2The modes of competition (scramble or contest) and strength of competition (under- to overcompensatory) operating within and between the stages of the two species was found to be influenced by total competitor density, the age structure of the competitor community and whether competition is between stages of single or two species.
- 3The effect of imposed resource limitation on survival was found to be asymmetric between stages and species. Environments supporting both dominant and subordinate competitors were found to increase survival of subordinate competitors at lower total competitor densities. Competitive environments during development within individual stage cohorts (i.e. small or large larvae), differed from the competitive environment in lumped age classes (i.e. development from egg→pupae).
- 4Competition within mixed-age, stage or species cohorts, when compared with uniform-aged or species cohorts, altered the position of a competitive environment on the scramble-contest spectrum. In some cases the competitive environment switched from undercompensatory contest to overcompensatory scramble competition.
- 5Such switching modes of competition suggest that the relative importance of the mechanisms regulating single-species population dynamics (i.e. resource competition) may change when organisms are embedded within a wider community.