Trap-building predators, such as web-building spiders and pit-building antlions, construct traps to capture their prey. These predators compete over sites that either enable the construction of suitable traps, are prey rich, or simply satisfy their abiotic requirements. We examined the effect of intraspecific competition over suitable space in pit-building wormlions. As expected, the ability of wormlions to select their favorable microhabitats—shaded or deep sand over lit or shallow sand—decreased with increasing density. Favorable microhabitats were populated more frequently by large than by small individuals and the density of individuals in the favorable microhabitat decreased with their increase in body mass. The advantage of large individuals in populating favorable microhabitats is nevertheless not absolute: both size categories constructed smaller pits when competing over a limited space compared to those constructed in isolation. The outcome of competition also depends on the type of habitat: deep sand is more important for large wormlions than small ones, while shade is similarly important for both size classes. Finally, in contrast to previous reports, cannibalism is shown here to be possible in wormlions. Its prevalence however is much lower compared to that documented in other trap-building predators. Our findings show that the advantage of large individuals over small ones should not be taken for granted, as it can depend on the environmental context. We present suggestions for the relative lack of competitive advantage of large wormlion individuals compared to other trap-building predators, which may stem from the absence of obvious weaponry, such as sharp mandibles.
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