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The cannibalistic behaviour of two Gammarus species (Crustacea: Amphipoda)


  • Jaimie T. A. Dick

    1. Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, School of Biology and Biochemistry, Medical Biology Centre, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland
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This study examines the cannibalistic behaviour of the freshwater amphipods Gammarus duebeni celticus Stock & Pinkster, 1970 and G. pulex (L., 1758). In the first experiment, interactions were staged among all combinations of single adult males, single adult females, adults in the precopulatory mate-guarding phase and juveniles. Cannibalism by inter-moult individuals on newly moulted conspecifics occurred in all interaction categories in both species. Gammarus d. celticus, however, were significantly more cannibalistic than G. pulex. Cannibalism between and within sex and size categories (males > females > juveniles) was facilitated by the vulnerability of individuals at moult. Individuals of smaller size categories, however, did not cannibalize newly moulted conspecifics of larger size categories. Males were less cannibalistic on newly moulted females than on newly moulted males and juveniles and, when in the precopulatory condition, appeared to defend females from cannibalistic attacks. In a second experiment, stream conditions were simulated in the laboratory and replicated populations monitored for nine weeks. High levels of cannibalism, and the species and sex differences in cannibalism identified in the first experiment, were confirmed under these heterogeneous conditions. Cannibalism by males on their newly moulted female mating partners, termed ‘reversed’ sexual cannibalism, was further investigated. When males were deprived of foraging opportunities, cannibalism of precopulatory partners was significantly more frequent. The occurrence of ‘reversed’ sexual cannibalism is thus interpreted as a conflict between motivation to feed and motivation to mate.

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