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Stress & Death

November 14, 2011

The presence of a predator can lead to an insect’s early death from causes other than predation.



Stress and early death…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Can stress contribute to an early death? It can if you’re a dragonfly larva. Freshwater ecologist Shannon McCauley, now of Cal Poly, and her colleagues at the University of Toronto, exposed dragonfly larvae to the sights, sounds and smells of their predators, but didn’t actually let them get eaten. McCauley says they were much more likely to die an early death than larvae that led a predator-free existence.


Populations under stress, all kinds of animals – are more vulnerable to things that might not actually cause them to die. So if you think about animals in polluted environments, fragmented environments, things that normally might not kill them they might become vulnerable to.


While dying from stress might not sound adaptive, McCauley says increased vigilance against predators in the short-term might mean that animals have less reserves to fight infection and disease in the long-term. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.