, 24:777 | Cite as

The role of larval cases in reducing aggression and cannibalism among caddisflies in temporary wetlands

  • Scott A. Wissinger
  • Charles Eldermire
  • John C. Whissel


Larvae of wetland caddisflies supplement their detrital diets with animal material. In some species this supplement is obtained by preying on other caddisflies. In this study, we conducted a series of laboratory experiments to a) compare intraspecific aggression and the propensity for cannibalism among six caddisfly species that occur along a gradient from vernal to autumnal to permanent high-elevation wetlands, and b) determine the importance of cases in preventing or reducing cannibalism and intraguild predation. We predicted that cannibalism and overall levels of aggression should be highest in species that occur in temporary habitats. We found that all of the species that use temporary habitats (Asynarchus nigriculus, Hesperophylax occidentalis, Limnephilus externus, Limnephilus picturatus, Limnephilus secludens) were extremely aggressive towards and cannibalized conspecifics without cases. Species that typically occur in short-duration temporary wetlands were more aggressive than those in long-duration temporary wetlands. Cases prevented cannibalism in four of these temporary-habitat species, and reduced cannibalism among Asynarchus larvae. The latter species occurs in extremely ephemeral habitats where cannibalism provides a dietary supplement that probably facilitates emergence before drying. Asynarchus also preys on Limnephilus spp., and we found that cases dramatically reduced vulnerability to intraguild predation. Larvae of Agrypnia deflata, a species that occurs only in permanent wetlands, were least aggressive and rarely cannibalized conspecifics. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that intraspecific aggression and the potential for cannibalism are highest in species that live in habitats with developmental time constraints. Many wetland invertebrates face developmental time constraints and selection for aggression in temporary habitats should be especially strong for taxa that rely on animal material to supplement a mainly detrital diet.

Key words

temporary wetlands caddisflies cannibalism detritus benthic invertebrates habitat drying time constraints Limnephilidae Phryganeidae 

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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott A. Wissinger
    • 1
    • 2
  • Charles Eldermire
    • 1
  • John C. Whissel
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology and Environmental Science DepartmentsAllegheny CollegeMeadvilleUSA
  2. 2.Rocky Mountain Biological LaboratoryCrested ButteUSA

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