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Data from: Specialists and generalists coexist within a population of spider-hunting mud dauber wasps


Powell, Erin C.; Taylor, Lisa A. (2017), Data from: Specialists and generalists coexist within a population of spider-hunting mud dauber wasps, Dryad, Dataset,


Individual foraging specialization describes the phenomenon where conspecifics within a population of generalists exhibit differences in foraging behavior, each specializing on different prey types. Individual specialization is widespread in animals, yet is understudied in invertebrates, despite potential impacts to food web and population dynamics. Sceliphron caementarium (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae) is an excellent system to examine individual specialization. Females of these mud-dauber wasps capture and paralyze spiders which they store in mud nests to provision their offspring. Individuals may make hundreds of prey choices in their short lifespan and fully intact prey items can be easily excavated from their mud nests, where each distinct nest cell represents a discrete foraging bout. Using data collected from a single population of S. caementarium (where all individuals had access to the same resources), we found evidence of strong individual specialization; individuals utilized different resources (with respect to prey taxa, prey ecological guild, and prey size) to provision their nests. The extent of individual specialization differed widely within the population with some females displaying extreme specialization (taking only prey from a single species) while others were generalists (taking prey from up to six spider families). We also found evidence of temporal consistency in individual specialization over multiple foraging events. We discuss these findings broadly in the context of search images, responses to changing prey availability, and intraspecific competition pressure.

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National Science Foundation, Award: IOS-1557867