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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23068. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023068. Epub 2011 Aug 17.

Susceptibility to predation affects trait-mediated indirect interactions by reversing interspecific competition.

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Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, The University of Plymouth, Plymouth, United Kingdom.


Numerous studies indicate that the behavioral responses of prey to the presence of predators can have an important role in structuring assemblages through trait-mediated indirect interactions. Few studies, however, have addressed how relative susceptibility to predation influences such interactions. Here we examine the effect of chemical cues from the common shore crab Carcinus maenas on the foraging behavior of two common intertidal gastropod molluscs. Of the two model consumers studied, Littorina littorea is morphologically more vulnerable to crab predation than Gibbula umbilicalis, and it exhibited greater competitive ability in the absence of predation threat. However, Littorina demonstrated a greater anti-predator response when experimentally exposed to predation cues, resulting in a lower level of foraging. This reversed the competitive interaction, allowing Gibbula substantially increased access to shared resources. Our results demonstrate that the susceptibility of consumers to predation can influence species interactions, and suggest that inter-specific differences in trait-mediated indirect interactions are another mechanism through which non-consumptive predator effects may influence trophic interactions.

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