The dark side of the light show : predators of fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Psyche. - Cambridge, 1874 - 2000
, p. 634027,1-634027,7
University of Antwerp
In the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, the Light Show is a popular seasonal attraction created by thousands of courting male Photinus carolinus fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) that flash in synchrony to locate females. This study was undertaken to provide a temporal snapshot of whether invertebrate predators are active within these dense and conspicuous firefly breeding aggregations. In addition, we examined whether female Photuris fireflies, which are specialist predators on other fireflies, show any feeding preferences within the diverse local firefly fauna. A field survey revealed a surprisingly diverse suite of generalist insectivores feeding on fireflies within P. carolinus breeding aggregations. In addition, laboratory studies revealed major differences in prey consumption rates when Photuris predators were given access to several lampyrid taxa. This suite of generalist and specialist predators appears to create a complex selective landscape that is predicted to be a powerful force shaping the evolution of firefly defenses.