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MATERNAL CARE IN THE NEOTROPICAL HARVESTMAN BOURGUYIA ALBIORNATA (ARACHNIDA: OPILIONES): OVIPOSITION SITE SELECTION AND EGG PROTECTION

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Females of the harvestman Bourguyia albiornata oviposit almost exclusively inside the tube formed by the curled leaves of the bromeliad Aechmea nudicaulis. Oviposition is not correlated with rainfall or with temperature, but is negatively correlated with the number of individuals of A. nudicaulis emitting flowers. Because the inflorescence stalk occupies the tube of leaves of flowering bromeliads, oviposition site is not available for ovigerous females. During one year, 83.6% of the females produced only one egg-batch and the remaining produced two or three batches. The mean number of eggs per batch along successive reproductive events decreased significantly. A field experiment in which females were removed from the nest bromeliad showed that less than 7% of the unprotected eggs survived beyond two weeks. In a control in which females were maintained over the eggs, predators attacked only one egg-batch. Ants were the most important egg predators, and at the study site at least 20 species nest and/or forage in A. nudicaulis. Intense predation on eggs by generalist predators may be an important pressure promoting parental care in Neotropical harvestmen.

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