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Open Access Research article

Reproductive tradeoff limits the predatory efficiency of female Arizona Bark Scorpions (Centruroides sculpturatus)

Michael M Webber* and Javier A Rodríguez-Robles

Author Affiliations

School of Life Sciences, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-4004, USA

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:197  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-197

Published: 14 September 2013

Abstract

Background

Life history tradeoffs may result from temporal and physiological constraints intrinsic to an organism. When faced with limited time and energy, compromises occur and these resources are allocated among essential activities, such as body growth, maintenance, foraging, mating, and offspring care. We investigated potential tradeoffs that may occur between reproductive activities and feeding performance in female Arizona Bark Scorpions (Centruroides sculpturatus) by comparing the time taken to capture prey between non-reproductive and reproductive females (gravid females and females exhibiting maternal care, i.e. carrying offspring on their backs).

Results

Gravid females were as efficient at catching prey as non-gravid females. To control for variation in the duration of the maternal care period, we removed all offspring from all post-parturient females after 5 days. Brooding females and females 24 hours following offspring removal (FOR) did not successfully capture prey within the 900-second trial period. Twenty-eight days FOR, females caught prey faster than females displaying maternal care and females 24 hours FOR, but were not as efficient at catching prey as non-gravid and gravid females. When pursuing prey, C. sculpturatus exhibiting maternal care used an active foraging strategy more frequently than non-gravid, gravid, and females 28 days FOR. In contrast, non-gravid, gravid, and females 28 days FOR used active and ambush foraging with similar frequency.

Conclusions

Our data suggest that reproduction does not significantly reduce the predatory efficiency of gravid C. sculpturatus, and that these females can cope with increasing body mass and the physiological costs of gestation. However, the observation that brooding females and females 24 hours FOR did not catch prey within the trial period indicates that maternal care significantly reduces predatory efficiency in these scorpions. Females 28 days FOR were still not as efficient at catching prey as non-gravid and gravid females, suggesting that reproductive costs extend for at least 4 weeks after the end of the maternal care period. Preferential use of an active foraging strategy by brooding females may increase prey encounter rates, allowing the scorpions to more rapidly replenish energy reserves depleted during reproduction. However, active foraging may be energetically costly and increase predation risk for brooding females. Our findings regarding antagonistic interactions between reproduction and feeding in female C. sculpturatus demonstrate the pervasive nature of reproductive costs for viviparous females, and may provide insight on factors that influence the diversity of reproductive strategies observed in nature.

Keywords:
Cost of reproduction; Foraging; Life history tradeoff; Maternal care; Predatory efficiency