Behavioural versus physiological mediation of life history under predation risk.

Research paper by Andrew P AP Beckerman, Kazimierz K Wieski, Donald J DJ Baird

Indexed on: 16 Jan '07Published on: 16 Jan '07Published in: Oecologia


Predator-generated variation in prey energy intake remains the dominant explanation of adaptive response to predation risk in prey life history, morphology and physiology across a wide range of taxa. This "behavioural hypothesis" suggest that chemical or visual signals of predation risk reduce prey energy intake leading to a life history characterized by a small size and late age at maturity. However, size-selective predation can induce either smaller size-early age or large size-late age life history. The alternative "physiological hypothesis" suggests that size-selective cues decouple the relationship between energy and life history, acting instead directly on development. Here we use a series of experiments in a fish-daphnid predator-prey system to ask whether size-selective predator cues induce a physiological mediation of development, overshadowing behaviourally based changes in food intake. We found fish chemical cues reduce the net energy intake in Daphnia magna, suggesting a behaviourally mediated reduction in energy. Experimental manipulation of food levels show further that reductions in food lead to later but smaller size at maturity. However, in line with the physiological hypothesis, we show that D. magna matures earlier and at a smaller size when exposed to fish predation cues. Furthermore, our data shows that they do this by increasing their development rate (earlier maturity) for a given growth rate, resulting in a smaller size at maturity. Our data, from a classic size-selective predation system, indicate that predator-induced changes in this system are driven by physiological mediation of development rather than behavioural mediation of energy intake.