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J Anim Ecol. 2008 Sep;77(5):1072-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2008.01408.x. Epub 2008 Jun 5.

Foraging theory predicts predator-prey energy fluxes.

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Department of Biology, Darmstadt University of Technology, Darmstadt, Germany.


1. In natural communities, populations are linked by feeding interactions that make up complex food webs. The stability of these complex networks is critically dependent on the distribution of energy fluxes across these feeding links. 2. In laboratory experiments with predatory beetles and spiders, we studied the allometric scaling (body-mass dependence) of metabolism and per capita consumption at the level of predator individuals and per link energy fluxes at the level of feeding links. 3. Despite clear power-law scaling of the metabolic and per capita consumption rates with predator body mass, the per link predation rates on individual prey followed hump-shaped relationships with the predator-prey body mass ratios. These results contrast with the current metabolic paradigm, and find better support in foraging theory. 4. This suggests that per link energy fluxes from prey populations to predator individuals peak at intermediate body mass ratios, and total energy fluxes from prey to predator populations decrease monotonically with predator and prey mass. Surprisingly, contrary to predictions of metabolic models, this suggests that for any prey species, the per link and total energy fluxes to its largest predators are smaller than those to predators of intermediate body size. 5. An integration of metabolic and foraging theory may enable a quantitative and predictive understanding of energy flux distributions in natural food webs.

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