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Annu Rev Entomol. 2010;55:39-53. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-112408-085314.

Causes and consequences of cannibalism in noncarnivorous insects.

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Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology, Department of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


We review the primary literature to document the incidence of cannibalism among insects that typically are not carnivorous. Most of the cannibalistic species were coleopterans and lepidopterans, and the cannibals often were juveniles that aggregate or that overlap in phenology with the egg stage. Cannibalism can be adaptive by improving growth rate, survivorship, vigor, longevity, and fecundity. It also can play an important role in regulating population density and suppressing population outbreaks, stabilizing host plant-insect relationships, and reducing parasitism rates. Cannibalism often was favored by density-dependent factors for herbivores that feed in concealed feeding situations (such as stem borers, leafminers), but also by density-independent factors (such as high ambient temperature) for herbivores that feed in exposed feeding situations.

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