Modality matters for the expression of inducible defenses: introducing a concept of predator modality.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Inducible defenses are a common and widespread form of phenotypic plasticity. A fundamental factor driving their evolution is an unpredictable and heterogeneous predation pressure. This heterogeneity is often used synonymously to quantitative changes in predation risk, depending on the abundance and impact of predators. However, differences in 'modality', that is, the qualitative aspect of natural selection caused by predators, can also cause heterogeneity. For instance, predators of the small planktonic crustacean Daphnia have been divided into two functional groups of predators: vertebrates and invertebrates. Predators of both groups are known to cause different defenses, yet predators of the same group are considered to cause similar responses. In our study we question that thought and address the issue of how multiple predators affect the expression and evolution of inducible defenses. RESULTS: We exposed D. barbata to chemical cues released by Triops cancriformis and Notonecta glauca, respectively. We found for the first time that two invertebrate predators induce different shapes of the same morphological defensive traits in Daphnia, rather than showing gradual or opposing reaction norms. Additionally, we investigated the adaptive value of those defenses in direct predation trials, pairing each morphotype (non-induced, Triops-induced, Notonecta-induced) against the other two and exposed them to one of the two predators. Interestingly, against Triops, both induced morphotypes offered equal protection. To explain this paradox we introduce a 'concept of modality' in multipredator regimes. Our concept categorizes two-predator-prey systems into three major groups (functionally equivalent, functionally inverse and functionally diverse). Furthermore, the concept includes optimal responses and costs of maladaptions of prey phenotypes in environments where both predators co-occur or where they alternate. CONCLUSION: With D. barbata, we introduce a new multipredator-prey system with a wide array of morphological inducible defenses. Based on a 'concept of modality', we give possible explanations how evolution can favor specialized defenses over a general defense. Additionally, our concept not only helps to classify different multipredator-systems, but also stresses the significance of costs of phenotype-environment mismatching in addition to classic 'costs of plasticity'. With that, we suggest that 'modality' matters as an important factor in understanding and explaining the evolution of inducible defenses.
Project description:Predation is one of the most important drivers of natural selection. In consequence a huge variety of anti-predator defenses have evolved in prey species. Under unpredictable and temporally variable predation pressure, the evolution of phenotypically plastic defensive traits is favored. These "inducible defenses", range from changes in behavior, life history, physiology to morphology and can be found in almost all taxa from bacteria to vertebrates. An important group of model organisms in ecological, evolutionary and environmental research, water fleas of the genus Daphnia (Crustacea: Cladocera), are well known for their ability to respond to predators with an enormous variety of inducible morphological defenses. Here we report on the "twist", a body torsion, as a so far unrecognized inducible morphological defense in Daphnia, expressed by Daphnia barbata exposed to the predatory tadpole shrimp Triops cancriformis. This defense is realized by a twisted carapace with the helmet and the tail spine deviating from the body axis into opposing directions, resulting in a complete abolishment of bilateral symmetry. The twisted morphotype should considerably interfere with the feeding apparatus of the predator, contributing to the effectiveness of the array of defensive traits in D. barbata. As such this study does not only describe a completely novel inducible defense in the genus Daphnia but also presents the first report of a free living Bilateria to flexibly respond to predation risk by abandoning bilateral symmetry.
Project description:Many organisms use inducible defenses as protection against predators. In animals, inducible defenses may manifest as changes in behavior, morphology, physiology, or life history, and prey species can adjust their defensive responses based on the dangerousness of predators. Analogously, prey may also change the composition and quantity of defensive chemicals when they coexist with different predators, but such predator-induced plasticity in chemical defenses remains elusive in vertebrates. In this study, we investigated whether tadpoles of the common toad (Bufo bufo) adjust their chemical defenses to predation risk in general and specifically to the presence of different predator species; furthermore, we assessed the adaptive value of the induced defense. We reared tadpoles in the presence or absence of one of four caged predator species in a mesocosm experiment, analyzed the composition and quantity of their bufadienolide toxins, and exposed them to free-ranging predators. We found that toad tadpoles did not respond to predation risk by upregulating their bufadienolide synthesis. Fishes and newts consumed only a small percentage of toad tadpoles, suggesting that bufadienolides provided protection against vertebrate predators, irrespective of the rearing environment. Backswimmers consumed toad tadpoles regardless of treatment. Dragonfly larvae were the most voracious predators and consumed more predator-naïve toad tadpoles than tadpoles raised in the presence of dragonfly cues. These results suggest that tadpoles in our experiment had high enough toxin levels for an effective defense against vertebrate predators even in the absence of predator cues. The lack of predator-induced phenotypic plasticity in bufadienolide synthesis may be due to local adaptation for constantly high chemical defense against fishes in the study population and/or due to the high density of conspecifics.
Project description:Predation is a major factor driving evolution, and organisms have evolved adaptations increasing their survival chances. However, most defenses incur trade-offs between benefits and costs. Many organisms save costs by employing inducible defenses as responses to fluctuating predation risk. The level of defense often increases with predator densities. However, individual predation risk should not only depend on predator density but also on the density of conspecifics. If the predator has a saturating functional response one would predict a negative correlation between prey density and individual predation risk and hence defense expression. Here, we tested this hypothesis using six model systems, covering a taxonomic range from protozoa to rotifers and crustaceans. In all six systems, we found that the level of defense expression increased with predator density but decreased with prey density. In one of our systems, i.e. in Daphnia, we further show that the response to prey density is triggered by a chemical cue released by conspecifics and congeners. Our results indicate that organisms adjust the degree of defense to the acute predation risk, rather than merely to predators' densities. Our study suggests that density-dependent defense expression reflects accurate predation-risk assessment and is a general principle in many inducible-defense systems.
Project description:Recognising the nature of the predation risk, and responding to it accurately, is crucial to fitness. Yet, even the most accurate adaptive responses to predation risk usually entail costs, both immediate and lifelong. Rooting in life-history theory, we hypothesize that an animal can perceive the nuances of prey size and age selectivity by the predator and modulate its life history accordingly. We test the prediction that-contrary to the faster or earlier senescence under predation risk that increases with prey size and age-under predation risk that decreases with prey size and age either no senescence acceleration or even its deceleration is to be observed. We use two species of indeterminate growers, small crustaceans of the genus Daphnia, Daphnia Pulex and Daphnia magna, as the model prey, and their respective gape-limited invertebrate predators, a dipteran, midge larva Chaoborus flavicans, and a notostracan, tadpole shrimp Triops cancriformis. We analyse age-specific survival, mortality and fertility rates, and find no senescence acceleration, as predicted. With this study, we complete the picture of the expected non-consumptive phenotypic effects of perceived predation pressure of different age-dependence patterns.
Project description:When prey are differentially affected by intra and interspecific competition, the cooccurrence of multiple prey species alters the per capita availability of food for a particular prey species which could alter how prey respond to the threat of predation, and hence the overall-effect of predators. We conducted an experiment to examine the extent to which the nonconsumptive and overall effect of predatory water bugs on snail and tadpole traits (performance and morphology) depended on whether tadpoles and snails cooccurred. Tadpoles and snails differed in their relative susceptibility to intraspecific and interspecific competition, and predators affected both prey species via consumptive and nonconsumptive mechanisms. Furthermore, the overall effect of predators often depended on whether another prey species was present. The reasoning for why the overall effect of predators depended on whether prey species cooccurred, however, differed for each of the response variables. Predators affected snail body growth via nonconsumptive mechanisms, but the change in the overall effect of predators on snail body growth was attributable to how snails responded to competition in the absence of predators, rather than a change in how snails responded to the threat of predation. Predators did not affect tadpole body growth via nonconsumptive mechanisms, but the greater vulnerability of competitively superior prey (snails) to predators increased the strength of consumptive mechanisms (and hence the overall effect) through which predators affected tadpole growth. Predators affected tadpole morphology via nonconsumptive mechanisms, but the greater propensity for predators to kill competitively superior prey (snails) enhanced the ability of tadpoles to alter their morphology in response to the threat of predation by creating an environment where tadpoles had a higher per capita supply of food available to invest in the development of morphological defenses. Our work indicates that the mechanisms through which predators affect prey depends on the other members of the community.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Most ecological models assume that predator and prey populations interact solely through consumption: predators reduce prey densities by killing and consuming individual prey. However, predators can also reduce prey densities by forcing prey to adopt costly defensive strategies. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:We build on a simple Lotka-Volterra predator-prey model to provide a heuristic tool for distinguishing between the demographic effects of consumption (consumptive effects) and of anti-predator defenses (nonconsumptive effects), and for distinguishing among the multiple mechanisms by which anti-predator defenses might reduce prey population growth rates. We illustrate these alternative pathways for nonconsumptive effects with selected empirical examples, and use a meta-analysis of published literature to estimate the mean effect size of each pathway. Overall, predation risk tends to have a much larger impact on prey foraging behavior than measures of growth, survivorship, or fecundity. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:While our model provides a concise framework for understanding the many potential NCE pathways and their relationships to each other, our results confirm empirical research showing that prey are able to partially compensate for changes in energy income, mitigating the fitness effects of defensive changes in time budgets. Distinguishing the many facets of nonconsumptive effects raises some novel questions, and will help guide both empirical and theoretical studies of how predation risk affects prey dynamics.
Project description:Organisms are adept at altering behaviors to balance the tradeoff between foraging and predation risk in spatially and temporally shifting predator environments. In order to optimize this tradeoff, prey need to be able to display an appropriate response based on degree of predation risk. To be most beneficial in the earliest life stages in which many prey are vulnerable to predation, innate anti-predator responses should scale to match the risk imposed by predators until learned anti-predator responses can occur. We conducted an experiment that examined whether tadpoles with no previous exposure to predators (i.e., predator-naive) exhibit innate antipredator behavioral responses (e.g., via refuge use and spatial avoidance) that match the actual risk posed by each predator. Using 7 treatments (6 free-roaming, lethal predators plus no-predator control), we determined the predation rates of each predator on Lithobates sphenocephalus tadpoles. We recorded behavioral observations on an additional 7 nonlethal treatments (6 caged predators plus no-predator control). Tadpoles exhibited innate responses to fish predators, but not non-fish predators, even though two non-fish predators (newt and crayfish) consumed the most tadpoles. Due to a mismatch between innate response and predator consumption, tadpoles may be vulnerable to greater rates of predation at the earliest life stages before learning can occur. Thus, naïve tadpoles in nature may be at a high risk to predation in the presence of a novel predator until learned anti-predator responses provide additional defenses to the surviving tadpoles.
Project description:Prey-tracking behavior is common in snail-killing predators, but in the family Lampyridae, this behavior has been validated in only a single species even though this Coleopteran family includes many specialist snail predators. The endemic firefly Pyrocoelia atripennis is a major snail-killing predator in the Yaeyama Islands of Japan, and the larvae often climb on the trees and grasses at night. This tree-climbing behavior is relevant to larval food choices and anti-predatory defenses of land snails. This study examined whether lampyrid larvae can track snail mucus trails and examined larval prey preferences using alternative choice experiments. In addition, predation trials were conducted to evaluate which snail species are potential prey. P. atripennis larvae significantly selected mucous trails over distilled water or control (no-trail) treatments. In addition, a semi-arboreal species was preferred over a ground-dwelling species. In predation trials, the larvae preyed on five out of 10 endemic snail species, all of which were semi-arboreal or arboreal species. Ground-dwelling Cyclophoridae and Aegista species have effective anti-predatory defenses consisting of an operculum or "foamy-lid" that fills the shell aperture. Whether the prey has a lid affects the predation success of lampyrid larvae, and larval tree-climbing behavior may be an adaptation used to search for semi-arboreal and arboreal land snails that lack defensive lids. Furthermore, snail mucus left on the plant stem may help the lampyrid larvae to locate their prey.
Project description:Many prey species evolved inducible defense strategies that protect effectively against predation threats. Especially the crustacean Daphnia emerged as a model system for studying the ecology and evolution of inducible defenses. Daphnia pulex e.g. shows different phenotypic adaptations against vertebrate and invertebrate predators. In response to the invertebrate phantom midge larvae Chaoborus (Diptera) D. pulex develops defensive morphological defenses (neckteeth). Cues originating from predatory fish result in life history changes in which resources are allocated from somatic growth to reproduction. While there are hints that responses against Chaoborus cues are transmitted involving cholinergic neuronal pathways, nothing is known about the neurophysiology underlying the transmission of fish related cues. We investigated the neurophysiological basis underlying the activation of inducible defenses in D. pulex using induction assays with the invertebrate predator Chaoborus and the three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus. Predator-specific cues were combined with neuro-effective substances that stimulated or inhibited the cholinergic and gabaergic nervous system. We show that cholinergic-dependent pathways are involved in the perception and transmission of Chaoborus cues, while GABA was not involved. Thus, the cholinergic nervous system independently mediates the development of morphological defenses in response to Chaoborus cues. In contrast, only the inhibitory effect of GABA significantly influence fish-induced life history changes, while the application of cholinergic stimulants had no effect in combination with fish related cues. Our results show that cholinergic stimulation mediates signal transmission of Chaoborus cues leading to morphological defenses. Fish cues, which are responsible for predator-specific life history adaptations involve gabaergic control. Our study shows that both pathways are independent and thus potentially allow for adjustment of responses to variable predation regimes.
Project description:To cope with predation, many prey species have developed inducible defenses in terms of morphology, behavior, and life history. Rotifers were the first model organisms used to evaluate the ecology and evolution of inducible defenses in aquatic ecosystems. Since the middle of last century, only visible morphological defenses, such as spine development, have been found and only in a few rotifer species. Given the development of ultrastructural defenses is taxonomically widespread in aquatic ecosystems, we hypothesize that rotifer prey, particularly small-sized species, can develop such inducible defenses. We evaluated morphological response of two common Brachionus herbivores (B. calyciflorus and B. angularis) to predatory rotifer Asplanchna brightwellii. Results confirmed existence of predator-induced ultrastructural defenses, which are expressed as increased lorica thickness and enhanced lorica hardness. Such inducible defenses are more evident and effective in the smaller sized B. angularis, leading to higher fitness of B. angularis in predator-prey interactions. As anticipated, development of defenses has inevitable fitness costs manifested as decreased reproduction or reduced sex investment. Our results not only extend understanding of inducible ultrastructural defense to other planktonic taxa that were previously observed only in cladocerans, but also verify effective mechanical protection of such hidden defensive morphology.