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Front. Ecol. Evol. | doi: 10.3389/fevo.2018.00220

Predator cues increase silkmoth mortality

  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, United States
  • 2University of Rhode Island, United States

While prey responses to predators reduce the threat of consumption, the physiological costs of these responses can be considerable. This is especially true for organisms that lack effective anti-predator defenses and must rely on camouflage or mimicry for protection. The luna moth, Actias luna, is a large saturniid native to Eastern North America that is preyed on by a wide variety of predators and parasitoids. We report the results of two separate experiments assessing the responses of Actias larvae to predatory wasps (Vespula maculifrons) that were rendered non-lethal but remained able to move freely, as well as in a control (wasp-free) treatment. We determined whether these responses were predator-specific by also testing the response of Actias larvae to a similarly-sized but harmless scavenging fly. In both experiments, A) Actias larvae in the wasp treatment died at a higher rate than those in the control treatments; and B) larval survival in the fly and control treatments did not differ. Despite similar Actias survival in the fly and control treatments, fly-treatment larvae that died appeared to respond similarly to flies as other larvae did to wasps. In both years, larvae that died in the fly and wasp treatments gained virtually no weight between the start of the experiment and their death, suggesting that they may have succumbed to starvation. Our results, replicated over two years, illustrate the high cost of anti-predator responses and are the first report of lethal risk effects in caterpillars.

Keywords: risk, predation risk, Actia luna, Vespula maculifrons, predator -prey

Received: 23 Aug 2018; Accepted: 04 Dec 2018.

Edited by:

Shannon J. McCauley, University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada

Reviewed by:

Peter Schausberger, Universität Wien, Austria
Ben G. Van Allen, University of California, San Diego, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Baranowski and Preisser. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Evan Preisser, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, United States, preisser@uri.edu