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Do Larval Damselflies make Adaptive Choices When Exposed to Both Parasites and Predators?


Pamela L. Rutherford, Department of Zoology, Brandon University, Brandon, MB, Canada R7A 6A9. E-mail:


The importance of multiple enemies from different trophic levels on investment in defence by prey has, with some exceptions, received little attention. Some defences may make the victim more susceptible to other enemies; this latter situation applies to predators and parasites of larval damselflies. Baker and Smith [Oecologia109 (1997) 622) showed that larval damselflies were as active in the presence of both mites and fish as they were when only mites were present, an apparently maladaptive behaviour that results in higher fish predation. In this paper, we further examine this maladaptive behavioural response to multiple enemies (fish predators and mite parasites) and test whether their defence responses are a result of the order in which they experience the parasite or predator, and/or if behavioural ‘personalities’ exist, such that some individuals show anti-predator behaviours and other show anti-parasite behaviours. Order of experience did not affect the four main behaviours (groom, crawl, turn and swim) exhibited when larval damselflies were simultaneously exposed to fish and mites. Grooming levels increased in response to mites, decreased in response to fish and when exposed to both mites and fish were similar to when they were exposed to mites alone. Duration of the other three behaviours was lower in the presence of both mites and fish. The crawling ‘personalities’ were evident. The apparently maladaptive response of high grooming levels in the presence of mites and fish is not a result of order of experience or ‘personalities’. It may be a result of relatively high encounter rates with mite parasites, compared with the encounter rates with fish. Lower encounter rates can result in diminishing investment in defence against an enemy.