Date of this Version
Brosius et al. (2013), PeerJ, DOI 10.7717/peerj.169 1/18
How behavioral patterns are related to niche partitioning is an important question in understanding how closely related species within ecological communities function. Behavioral niche partitioning associated with thermoregulation is well documented in tiger beetles as a group. Co-occurring species of salt flat tiger beetles have adapted many thermoregulatory behaviors to cope with this harsh ecosystem. On first examination these beetles appear to occur in overlapping microhabitats and therefore compete for resources. To determine if behavioral niche partitioning is allowing multiple species to occur within the same harsh salt flat ecosystem we observed Cicindela nevadica lincolniana, Cicindela circumpicta, Cicindela fulgida, and Cicindela togata between 8:00 h and 21:00 h and recorded all behaviors related to thermoregulation using a digital voice recorder. Results of this study strongly indicate that competition among these species for resources has been reduced by the adaptation of different thermoregulatory behaviors such as spending time in shallow water, avoiding the sun during the hottest parts of the day, and by positioning their body against or away from the soil. The endangered C. n. lincolniana appears to rely most heavily on the shallow water of seeps for their diurnal foraging behavior (potentially limiting their foraging habitat), but with the advantage of allowing foraging during the hottest times of the day when potential competitors are less frequent. Ironically, this association also may help explain C. n. lincolniana’s susceptibility to extinction: beyond the loss of saline wetlands generally, limited seeps and pools even within remaining saline habitat may represent a further habitat limitation within an already limited habitat.