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Open Access Research article

Effects of intraspecific competition on the life cycle of the stonefly, Nemurella pictetii (Plecoptera: Nemouridae)

Reimo Lieske* and Peter Zwick

Author Affiliations

Limnologische Fluss-Station des Max-Planck-Instituts für Limnologie, Schlitz, Germany

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BMC Ecology 2008, 8:5  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-8-5

Published: 16 April 2008



Considerable variation of life cycle duration in given insect species has been frequently recorded. Splitting of populations into cohorts with different life cycle lengths may occur, sometimes even between siblings from the same batch. Larval populations of the stonefly Nemurella pictetii in central Europe regularly split into a very fast developing and a normal univoltine cohort, leading to partial multivoltinism. The causes for such variation remain unknown but presumably act on the larval stage in which most of the life cycle is spent. We therefore studied possible effects of intraspecific competition on growth and development of larvae in the laboratory.


Intraspecific competition had important influence on growth and development of the larvae. High larval densities led to reduced growth and retarded development through interference, not through exploitative competition. All specimens were negatively affected by frequent encounters and the resulting disturbance. There were no dominant individuals able to grow and develop faster than the rest, at the expense of the others.


Differences in life cycle length of Nemurella pictetii may result from different larval densities in different microhabitats and resultant different degrees of interference competition. Although competition alone probably does not cause splitting of populations into cohorts with different life cycle duration differences in size and development caused by other factors are certainly enhanced by intraspecific competition.