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PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25937. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025937. Epub 2011 Oct 5.

The allometry of prey preferences.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biology, Darmstadt University of Technology, Darmstadt, Germany. kalinkat@bio.tu-darmstadt.de

Abstract

The distribution of weak and strong non-linear feeding interactions (i.e., functional responses) across the links of complex food webs is critically important for their stability. While empirical advances have unravelled constraints on single-prey functional responses, their validity in the context of complex food webs where most predators have multiple prey remain uncertain. In this study, we present conceptual evidence for the invalidity of strictly density-dependent consumption as the null model in multi-prey experiments. Instead, we employ two-prey functional responses parameterised with allometric scaling relationships of the functional response parameters that were derived from a previous single-prey functional response study as novel null models. Our experiments included predators of different sizes from two taxonomical groups (wolf spiders and ground beetles) simultaneously preying on one small and one large prey species. We define compliance with the null model predictions (based on two independent single-prey functional responses) as passive preferences or passive switching, and deviations from the null model as active preferences or active switching. Our results indicate active and passive preferences for the larger prey by predators that are at least twice the size of the larger prey. Moreover, our approach revealed that active preferences increased significantly with the predator-prey body-mass ratio. Together with prior allometric scaling relationships of functional response parameters, this preference allometry may allow estimating the distribution of functional response parameters across the myriads of interactions in natural ecosystems.

PMID:
21998724
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3187823
Free PMC Article
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