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Am Nat. 2012 Feb;179(2):217-27. doi: 10.1086/663680. Epub 2011 Dec 21.

Behavioral types of predator and prey jointly determine prey survival: potential implications for the maintenance of within-species behavioral variation.

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Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.


Recent studies in animal behavior have emphasized the ecological importance of individual variation in behavioral types (e.g., boldness, activity). Such studies have emphasized how variation in one species affects its interaction with other species. But few (if any) studies simultaneously examine variation in multiple interacting species, despite the potential for coevolutionary responses to work to either maintain or eliminate variation in interacting populations. Here, we investigate how individual differences in behavioral types of both predators (ocher sea stars, Pisaster ochraceus) and prey (black turban snails, Chlorostoma funebralis) interact to mediate predation rates. We assessed activity level, degree of predator avoidance behavior, and maximum shell diameter of individual C. funebralis and activity levels of individual P. ochraceus. We then placed 46 individually marked C. funebralis into outdoor mesocosms with a single P. ochraceus and allowed them to interact for 14 days. Overall, predator avoidance behavior and maximum shell diameter were positively associated with survival for C. funebralis. However, the effects of these traits depended on the predator's behavioral type: greater predator avoidance behavior was favored with active P. ochraceus, and low predator avoidance behavior was favored with inactive P. ochraceus. We argue that, even in two-species interactions, trait variation in heterospecifics could be an important factor maintaining trait variation within populations.

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