Inducible defenses in prey intensify predator cannibalism

  • Kishida O
  • Trussell G
  • Nishimura K
 et al. 
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Trophic cascades are often a potent force in ecological communities, but abiotic and biotic heterogeneity can diffuse their influence. For example, inducible defenses in many species create variation in prey edibility, and size-structured interactions, such as cannibalism, can shift predator diets away from heterospecific prey. Although both factors diffuse cascade strength by adding heterogeneity to trophic interactions, the consequences of their interactioh remain poorly understood. We show that inducible defenses in tadpole prey greatly intensify cannibalism in predatory larval salamanders. The likelihood of cannibalism was also strongly influenced by asymmetries in salamander size that appear to be most important in the presence of defended prey. Hence, variation in prey edibility and the size structure of the predator may synergistically affect predator-prey population dynamics by reducing prey mortality and increasing predator mortality via cannibalism. We also suggest that the indirect effects of prey defenses may shape the evolution of predator traits that determine diet breadth and how trophic dynamics unfold in natural systems.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Behavior
  • Cannibalism
  • Diet
  • Food webs
  • Hynobius retardatus (dunn)
  • Inducible defense
  • Predation risk
  • Rana pirica (matsui)
  • Salamander
  • Trait-mediated indirect effects
  • Trophic cascade

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