Behaviour 2019
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Juvenile leaf-footed bugs are attracted to conspecific feeding sites
Sam Zlotnik, Kaylin Kleckner, Christine W. Miller. University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States

Intraspecific competition often structures feeding behavior, particularly in specialist-feeding animals. For developing juveniles, competing with larger adult conspecifics may be especially costly. However, juveniles may also benefit from feeding near conspecifics due to the survival advantages of being in groups or the ease of nutrient access following adult feeding. Therefore, both attraction to and avoidance of conspecifics are potential strategies for juvenile survival. Yet such behaviors have not been well-studied in taxa without parental care or complex social systems. We investigated whether juvenile leaf-footed cactus bugs (Narnia femorata) are attracted to or avoid conspecifics in a feeding context. In a two-choice experiment, juveniles preferred fruits that were previously fed on over fruits that had never been fed on. They behaved similarly whether the fruit had been fed on by an adult or a juvenile conspecific. In group settings, juveniles often fed next to conspecifics even when there were opportunities to feed alone. Our study indicates that juveniles of specialist-feeding animals may use conspecific attraction during feeding to enhance their growth and survival.