Comparison of antipredator responses of two related water striders to a common predator

James J. Krupa, Andrew Sih

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This study compares the antipredator responses of two congeneric water striders that live in different habitats yet share a common predator. Aquarius nebularis and A. remigis are stream-dwelling species of water striders found in close association in central Kentucky. Aquarius nebularis typically inhabit third-and fourth-order streams that support diverse and complex fish communities; A. remigis inhabit adjacent first- and second-order tributaries that tend to have either no fish or relatively few fish patchily distributed. The ecological conditions for these two species are distinctly different, yet the green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) is a surface-feeding predator and a potential risk to both species. In experimental pools with sunfish, an initial fish strike caused A. remigis to move to the edge of the pool and become inactive. For the rest of the observation period, A. remigis reduced behaviour patterns that attract predators such as skating on open water, mating and male-male aggression. The proportion of A. remigis missing from sunfish pools was 5 times higher than in pools lacking fish, suggesting that 20% of water striders were killed by predation. In contrast, an initial fish strike caused A. nebularis to exhibit a burst of activity as individuals erratically skated over the open water. They then resumed the less active pre-attack behaviours a short time later. Aquarius nebularis showed none of the antipredator behaviours typical for A. remigis. Furthermore, the proportion of A. nebularis missing from sunfish pools did not differ from that in pools without fish. Although antipredator behaviour has been examined for relatively few species of water striders, this study suggests that the behaviour of the most commonly studied species, A. remigis, may not be indicative for water striders in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1019-1033
Number of pages15
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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