Tenebrionid beetles in the Negev Desert exhibit size-related habitat segregation, with larger species found in denser cover. Size-dependent predation by birds has been suggested as the mechanism behind this habitat segregation. Two predictions of this hypothesis were tested: (1) plant cover reduces the predation efficiency of birds upon large tenebrionids, and (2) birds prefer larger species. Both predictions were supported: plant cover reduced predation rate by the most common spring and summer predatory birds: white storks (Ciconia ciconia) and stone curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus), in cage experiments. Results from preference experiments suggest that tenebrionid species can be divided according to their profitability as prey. Large species are the most profitable, medium-sized species are less profitable but still acceptable and small species are unprofitable and therefore ignored. Field observations demonstrated that the well-vegetated wadi habitats are dominated by large and small species whereas acceptable, medium-sized species are under-represented in this habitat. The results of the cage experiments indicate possible apparent competition between the large profitable and the medium acceptable tenebrionid species in the wadis. Aggregative response of predators in the profitable habitat is suggested as the mechanism leading to truncated distribution of prey species. Large profitable species are refuge-dependent, medium-sized acceptable species use enemy free space and small species are predator independent.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics