Habitat choice is an important decision that influences animals' fitness. Insect larvae are less mobile than the adults. Consequently, the contribution of the maternal choice of habitat to the survival and development of the offspring is considered to be crucial. According to the “preference-performance hypothesis”, ovipositing females are expected to choose habitats that will maximize the performance of their offspring. We tested this hypothesis in wormlions (Diptera: Vermileonidae), which are small sand-dwelling insects that dig pit-traps in sandy patches and ambush small arthropods. Larvae prefer relatively deep and obstacle-free sand, and here we tested the habitat preference of the ovipositing female. In contrast to our expectation, ovipositing females showed no clear preference for either a deep sand or obstacle-free habitat, in contrast to the larval choice. This suboptimal female choice led to smaller pits being constructed later by the larvae, which may reduce prey capture success of the larvae. We offer several explanations for this apparently suboptimal female behavior, related either to maximizing maternal rather than offspring fitness, or to constraints on the female's behavior. Female's ovipositing habitat choice may have weaker negative consequences than expected for the offspring, as larvae can partially correct suboptimal maternal choice.
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© 2017 Elsevier B.V.
- Habitat choice
- Larval development