The presence of predators can have dramatic consequences on prey communities, not only by the direct effects of consumption but also through sublethal effects. We investigated the survival rate and subsequent life history of the mosquito Culex pervigilans Bergroth under the influence of its major predator, the backswimmer Anisops wakefieldi White. We established a field experiment with various treatments: 1) control without predators, 2) free-roaming A. wakefieldi (with one, three, or nine A. wakefieldi per container), 3) caged A. wakefieldi (empty cage without predators, with one, three, or nine A. wakefieldi in each cage, and 4) A. wakefieldi cues (with cues concentrations of one, three, or nine A. wakefieldi). Cx. pervigilans eggs were then taken from these four experimental treatments and reared in two different laboratory conditions: 1) in clean water without any traces of predators, or 2) in water with the same treatments as in field. The survival rate of Cx. pervigilans was significantly reduced by the presence of predators or their cues. Even after a brief exposure to waters containing predators or residual cues, the subsequent progeny and the ontogeny of the remaining survivors were still affected. The percentage of eggs that hatched, and the resulting mosquito population, was influenced by the presence of predators or their cues. Our results suggest that sublethal effects may be carried by surviving individuals primarily through the effects of stress, perhaps by epigenetic mechanisms. We may expect to observe similar plasticity in species or populations with high temporal or spatial variability in predation.
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Vol. 50 • No. 5