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Ecology. 2017 Oct;98(10):2499-2505. doi: 10.1002/ecy.1957. Epub 2017 Aug 28.

Predator ontogeny affects expression of inducible defense morphology in rotifers.

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Aquatic Ecology, Department of Biology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.


Many prey organisms show induced morphological responses to predators including changes in protective spine length, such as in rotifers, although previous studies have mainly focused on how prey become larger than the predator gape-size optimum. Here we show that a large-sized predator makes prey rotifers escape below the gape-size optimum of the predator by reducing spine length. In experiments and field studies we show that during part of their ontogeny fish larvae feed intensively on the common rotifer Keratella cochlearis, and that larval fish predation reduces rotifer spine length both through induction of shorter spines and selective predation on long-spined individuals. We also describe a global scale pattern in spine length of K. cochlearis, showing an increasing variance in spine length with latitude. This pattern may be explained by differences in fish reproduction from once per year at high latitudes to several times per year at lower latitudes. That spine length is adaptively adjusted to the ontogeny of a dominant predator taxa provides a novel view on our understanding of factors affecting temporal and spatial variations in prey defense morphology.


Keratella cochlearis; fish larvae; gape size; inducible defense; morphology; ontogeny; predator; prey; rotifer

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