Overview

Brief Summary

Myrmeleon crudelis spends most of its life in the larval stage, where it behaves as a sit-and-wait predator to capture prey. Larvae build conical pit traps in fine, sandy soils by throwing sand with their mouthparts. The larvae wait at the bottom of these pits and use their large mandibles to capture small arthropods (mostly ants) that fall into the pits (2). They are capable of regulating the speed of each mandible independently when they strike based on the position of the prey in order to maximize capture rate (3). The larvae relocate their pits during the night (1). 

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Distribution

From southern North America through Central America (5).

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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

General Description

M. crudelis larvae have large abdomens and heads, with long mandibles. Their mouth parts capture prey and inject digestive enzymes, and then suck out the insides. The larvae go through three instar stages, usually lasting one to three years in total (2). When fully grown, the larvae are 10-12mm in length. They spin cocoons out of silk. After metamorphosis (antlions are holometabolous), they then emerge as carnivorous, crepuscular or nocturnal adults, which resemble damselflies.  The adults are 5-6cm in length and are somewhat weak fliers (4).

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Ecology

Habitat

Antlions are found mainly in loose, sandy soils in areas of low rainfall. In areas of high rainfall, they are generally found under logs or rock overhangs, where the soil is drier (2). Their pit trap site selection is strongly influenced by abiotic factors such as temperature, light, soil texture, soil depth, and moisture. Their pit selection is more heavily influenced by these abiotic factors than by biotic factors such as prey availability (2).

  • 1. Alcalay Y, Ovadia O, Scharf I. 2014. Behavioral repeatability and personality in pit-building antlion larvae under differing environmental contexts. Behav Ecol Sociobiol. 68(12):1985-93.
  • 2. Farji-Brener, A.G., Carvajal, D., Gei, M.G., Olano, J., and Sanchez, J.D., 2008. Direct and indirect effects of soil structure on the density of an antlion larva in a tropical dry forest. Ecological Entomology. 33, 183–188.
  • 3. Lambert EP, Motta PJ, Lowry D. 2011. Modulation in the feeding prey capture of the ant-lion, myrmeleon crudelis. Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological Genetics and Physiology. 315 A(10):602-9.
  • 4. McClure, M. S. 1983. Costa Rican Natural History. Ed. Daniel H. Janzen. Chicago: U of Chicago, Print.
  • 5. "Myrmeleon crudelis Walker, 1853." ITIS Standard Report Page: Myrmeleon Crudelis. ITIS, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. .
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