Variation in prey-specific consumption rates and patterns of field co-occurrence for two larval predaceous diving beetles
Freshwater predatory insects can exert strong effects on prey, although how multiple similar predators may coexist is not well understood. Larval predaceous diving beetles are often numerically and taxonomically abundant predators in lentic systems, but the proximate mechanisms that explain their high abundance remain unknown. Field surveys were conducted twice in June in ponds in Alberta, Canada to assess the associations between larvae of two genera (Graphoderus, Rhantus), their spatial locations, and correlations with potential prey. Both larvae were common and positively correlated within wetlands although neither varied with pond depth nor distance from edge. Laboratory trials indicated that Graphoderus consumed more prey (corixids) at the surface, whereas Rhantus killed benthic prey (chironomids) and corixids at an equal rate; damselflies were the least consumed prey. Predation also varied with depth, with both larvae feeding at higher rates in the shallowest environments compared to Graphoderus at an intermediate depth. Predator-prey correlations from ponds were mostly congruent with predation trials; Graphoderus was positively correlated with corixids, Rhantus was positively correlated with corixids and chironomids; beetles were uncorrelated with damselflies. Reliance on different prey in different microhabitats may be an important mechanism for the maintenance of high abundance of dytiscid larvae.