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Relatedness modulates density-dependent cannibalism rates in Drosophila

Cite this dataset

Fisher, Adam et al. (2021). Relatedness modulates density-dependent cannibalism rates in Drosophila [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Cannibalism is taxonomically widespread, and can have large impacts on individual fitness and population-level processes. As such, identifying how cannibalism rates vary in response to ecological cues is important for predicting species evolution and population dynamics.

2. In this study, we aimed to identify several eco-evolutionary factors that affect cannibalism rate and measure how they interacted with one another.

3. To do this, we conducted two experiments using complimentary methods to measure how cannibalism rates varied among larval Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans in response to changes in conspecific relatedness, social familiarity and density.

4. We found that larvae were more likely to cannibalise non-related larval victims in both species, and that this effect increased at high densities in D. simulans. We found no evidence that Drosophila larvae use social familiarity to assess relatedness. Finally, in D. melanogaster, cannibalistic larvae prefer to cannibalise larvae that are being attacked by a greater number of conspecifics, implying that cues linked to conspecific abundance encourage cooperative cannibalism.

5. By showing that cannibalism frequency in Drosophila spp. is sensitive to relatedness and several other factors, we reveal the complex relationship between cannibalism frequency and species ecology. Also, by showing that the effect of relatedness on cannibalism frequency is density-dependent, we advance the current understanding of how ecological variables interact to affect kin selection.