Caddisfly behavioral responses to drying cues in temporary ponds: Implications for effects of climate change.
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Lund, Jessica O.
Wissinger, Scott A.
Peckarsky, Barbara L.
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EmbargoThis verison of the article is available for viewing to the public after February 11, 2017.
Subjectclimate change; ponds; wetlands; drying; aggressive behavior; cannibalism; development time; alpine ponds
Aquatic organisms that live at high latitudes and elevations are especially vulnerable to climate-change-induced alterations in snowpack, snowmelt, and evaporation rates, all of which affect basin filling and drying dates. Extraordinarily early drying events in shallow ponds and wetlands at our study sites prompted us to conduct 2 mesocosm experiments to document how proximate cues of drying modify agonistic behaviors among larvae of the caddisfly, Asynarchus nigriculus. Larvae are mainly detritivores but can be extremely aggressive and engage in mob cannibalism, perhaps to obtain a dietary supplement that hastens escape from drying basins. In one experiment, we manipulated caddisfly density to simulate the effects of crowding during pond drying. In a 2nd experiment, we reduced water levels and manipulated a protein supplement that mimics the dietary benefits of cannibalism. We quantified the effects of those manipulations on aggressive behaviors that are precursors to cannibalism and on development time to pupation. Frequency and duration of agonistic encounters increased as a function of larval density and, independent of density, were higher in drying than nondrying treatments, especially in the absence of a protein supplement. Pupation occurred earlier in high- than low-density treatments and earlier with than without a protein supplement. In contrast, the timing of pupation was not accelerated in drying compared with nondrying treatments, which might reflect the extreme diel temperature fluctuations in drying ponds, hence suboptimal growth conditions. Our findings provide evidence that declining water levels and crowding serve as cues that enable caddisflies to adjust behavior and development in the face of habitat drying. Early drying events observed in recent years may exceed the limits of this flexibility and portend the demise of populations in temporary habitats that historically supported this species.