BLY 303 Lecture Notes, 2012 (O Brien) V. Predator-Prey Interactions

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1 BLY 303 Lecture Notes, 2012 (O Brien) V. Predator-Prey Interactions I. Introduction A. Types of predation 1. HERBIVORY: Animal eats plants 2. CARNIVORY: Animal eats animals 3. CANNABALISM: Animal eats its own species B. Importance of predation 1. Affects species distribution and abundance 2. Affects community structure 3. Important selective force II. Prey defensive strategies A. Camouflage or cryptic coloration 1. Hide in the open 2. Effective camouflage lowers predation from visual predators 3. Examples a. Herbivorous insects on plants b. White fur of baby harp seals c. Zebra stripes (1) Effect similar to military fatigue uniforms (2) Wavy lines blend with strips of tall grass in background (3) Helps that lions and other predators on African Plains are color-blind 4. Predators also make use of camouflage a. Ambush or sit-and-wait predators remain motionless until approaching prey is close b. Stealth predators slowly approach unsuspecting prey c. Examples (1) Lion lying in ambush (2) White polar bear B. Warning coloration or sounds 1. Termed APOSEMATIC [= away signal] 2. Often found in species that can inflict pain to a predator 3. Many terrestrial animals that utilize this strategy possess distinctive yellow, red, black and white coloration 4. Effectiveness of protection A. Relies upon predators being able to learn to avoid these species B. If predator dies, future avoidance cannot occur 5. Examples a. Bees and wasps that sting (1) Noisy flight 30

2 (2) Stripes on dorsal abdomen b. Spiders (1) Brightly colored banana spiders sit in the middle of large webs that mammals and birds learn to avoid (2) Black widow (a) Bites produce muscle aches & nausea (c) Human fatalities are fairly rare They bite only in self-defense, such as when touched. c. Small poisonous snakes (1) Rattlesnakes make an unforgettable sound (2) Red and black bands on coral snakes (a) (c) Reclusive, generally bite humans only when handled or stepped on. They must chew on victim to inject the venom, so most bites to humans don't result in death. No deaths from coral snake bites in U.S. since C. Mimicry 1. One species (the mimic) resembles a second species (the model) 2. Model either inflicts pain or is distasteful (= unpalatable) to predator 3. Mullerian Mimicry a. Defined: Occurs when two harmful species that share the same predator resemble each other b. The existence of one distinctive pattern being associated with harm hastens the avoidance learning process of the predator c. Many stinging insects and unpalatable butterflies resemble each other 4. Batesian Mimicry a. Defined: Harmless species resembles a species that can inflect harm to a predator b. Many herbivorous insects mimic stinging wasps and bees in looks and noise-making c. Non-poisonous king snakes have banding patterns resembling those of coral snakes D. Inducible defenses 1. Produced in response to presence of a predator and decline following departure of predator 2. Not a quick response 3. Crab predator and mussel prey interaction 31

3 a. Observation: Mussels in areas with high crab densities possessed thicker shells and were more firmly attached to substrate than mussels from areas where crabs densities were low. b. Above information is a correlation and not necessarily a response of mussels to presence of crabs (1) Crabs could have eaten all the thin-shelled mussels (2) Thickness of shell and strength of attachment could have been responses to factors other than crabs (salinity, exposure) c. Flow-through Experiment (1) Set-up #1: Mussels received water from tank with no crabs (2) Set-up #2: Mussels received water from tank containing crabs (3) Result: Shell thickness of mussels downstream from crabs was greater than control group 4. Inducible defenses are usually metabolically costly (= divert energy reserves away from reproduction) E. Group living 1. Colonies, herds, flocks, schools etc. 2. More eyes to see, i.e., early detection of predators Example: prairie dog colony members continually look in all directions 3. Confuse predator a. Many prey run away at once in all directions b. Difficult for predator to focus on one prey Example: stripes on zebras supposedly make it more difficult for charging predators to focus their attack on an individual member of the herd 4. Safety provided by numbers a. Adults in herd can drive off predators b. Example: Cape buffalo herd repels a pride of lions F. Size refuges 1. Often very few big healthy adults suffer little losses to predators. (Type I Survivorship Curve) 2. Predatory snails do not attempt to bore through thick shells of large bivalves 3. Newly born individuals of a species can face different predators than do juveniles. 4. Predators of adults can differ from those preying on juveniles. III. Predator Strategies A. Natural selection pressure: over time, a predator must acquire more energy from prey items than it spent in capturing & consuming it. 32

4 B. Energy costs 1. Searching using an example of parasitoid wasps a. If life expectancy is low, it is most efficient to reproduce now b. Question: Assuming that life expectancy is high, Is it more efficient for wasp to hunt for food now and reproduce later or to reproduce now? c. Conclusions (1) If wasp has plenty of energy reserves, it is more efficient to reproduce now (= hunt for hosts). (2) When energy reserves become low, it is more efficient to switch strategies (a) Hunt for food now Delay reproduction 2. Circumventing prey defense mechanisms a. Cheetahs cannot run down fast adult gazelles b. The cheetah s hunting technique (1) Get as close as possible by stalking (= save energy) (2) Burst into full speed and trip the prey with a front paw (3) Strangle prey by the throat. 3. Energy in very small prey (= juveniles) may not compensate for effort spent to capture them C. Response of predators to changes in prey numbers 1. Developmental response a. Change in prey consumption can occur as predators mature and/or move through different developmental stages of their life-cycle b. Common in marine invertebrates and insects (a) Larval stages feed on much different prey items than adults Metamorphosis to adult stage can be hastened if larval food source is depleted. 2. Numerical response a. Respond to increase in prey abundance by increasing their numbers b. Equivalent to increasing the carrying capacity in the logistic equation 3. Functional response a. Predators respond to an increase in prey by eating more prey b. The greater the hunting ability, the steeper the slope 33

5 c. Eventually the feeding rate of predator reaches a maximum 4. Prey switching a. Predators respond to a decrease in prey by switching to a different and more numerous prey species b. This strategy may involve hunting in a different habitat D. Optimal Foraging Theory 1. Definition a. Natural selection favors individuals that spend less time in habitats where the cost / benefit ratio of finding food is high and more time where this ratio is low b. Individuals will allocate time searching for food such that they get the most efficient return on their efforts c. Natural selection will favor the behavior that yields the greatest net benefit, where net benefit = (benefit - cost) 2. Habitat selection example a. Prediction: When prey density is high, predators will specialize on high quality items and ignore items of poor quality. b. Prediction: As food density decreases, predators will broaden the diversity of prey c. Prediction: Time spent in a patch of prey should increase with an increase in travel time between patches. 3. Size selection of mussel prey by a crab (example) a. Larger mussels provide more nourishing food than smaller ones b. Larger mussels require more time before crab can crack shell c. The energetic costs (= reward) gained from eating very small mussels is less than the energy spent in opening them d. Tests show crabs selects intermediate-sized prey items as predicted by optimal foraging theory 34

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