Posts tagged Predator-prey
Biodiversity effects of the predation gauntlet

The ubiquity of trophic downgrading has led to interest in the consequences of mesopredator release on prey communities and ecosystems. This issue is of particular concern for reef-fish communities, where predation is a key process driving ecological and evolutionary dynamics. Here, we synthesize existing experiments that have isolated the effects of mesopredators to quantify the role of predation in driving changes in the abundance and biodiversity of recently settled reef fishes. On average, predators reduced prey abundance through generalist foraging behavior, which, through a statistical sampling artifact, caused a reduction in alpha diversity and an increase in beta diversity. Thus, the synthesized experiments provide evidence that predation reduces overall abundance within prey communities, but—after accounting for sampling effects—does not cause disproportionate effects on biodiversity.

This paper was authored by Adrian C. Stier (me), Christopher D. Stallings, Jameal F. Samhouri, Mark A. Albins, and Glenn R. Almany. You can find a copy of the manuscript here, or contact me directly for a PDF. 

Predator density and the functional responses of coral reef fish

Predation is a key process driving coral reef fish population dynamics, with higher per capita prey mortality rates on reefs with more predators. Reef predators often forage together, and at high densities, they may either cooperate or antagonize one another, thereby causing prey mortality rates to be substantially higher or lower than one would expect if predators did not interact. However, we have a limited mechanistic understanding of how prey mortality rates change with predator densities. We re-analyzed a previously published observational dataset to investigate how the foraging response of the coney grouper (Cephalopholis fulva) feeding on the bluehead wrasse (Thalassoma bifasciatum) changed with shifts in predator and prey densities. Using a model-selection approach, we found that per-predator feeding rates were most consistent with a functional response that declines as predator density increases, suggesting either antagonistic interactions among predators or a shared antipredator behavioral response by the prey. Our findings suggest that variation in predator density (natural or anthropogenic) may have substantial consequences for coral reef fish population dynamics.

This paper was authored by A.C. Stier (me) and J.W. White. You can find a copy of the manuscript here, or contact me directly for a PDF.