Indexed on: 26 Nov '09Published on: 26 Nov '09Published in: Oecologia
A vast body of literature exists documenting the morphological, behavioural and life history changes that predators induce in prey. However, little attention has been paid to how these induced changes feed back and affect the predators' life history and morphology. Larvae of the phantom midge Chaoborus flavicans are intermediate predators in a food web with Daphnia pulex as the basal resource and planktivorous fish as the top predator. C. flavicans prey on D. pulex and are themselves prey for fish; as D. pulex induce morphological defences in the presence of C. flavicans this is an ideal system in which to evaluate the effects of defended prey and top predators on an intermediate consumer. We assessed the impact on C. flavicans life history and morphology of foraging on defended prey while also being exposed to the non-lethal presence of a top fish predator. We tested the basic hypothesis that the effects of defended prey will depend on the presence or absence of top predator predation risk. Feeding rate was significantly reduced and time to pupation was significantly increased by defended morph prey. Gut size, development time, fecundity, egg size and reproductive effort respond to fish chemical cues directly or significantly alter the relationship between a trait and body size. We found no significant interactions between prey morph and the non-lethal presence of a top predator, suggesting that the effects of these two biological factors were additive or singularly independent. Overall it appears that C. flavicans is able to substantially modify several aspects of its biology, and while some changes appear mere consequences of resource limitation others appear facultative in nature.