Lesser of two evils? Foraging choices in response to threats of predation and parasitism.
ABSTRACT: Predators have documented post-encounter (density-mediated) effects on prey but their pre-encounter impacts, including behavioural alterations, can be substantial as well. While it is increasingly evident that this "ecology of fear" is important to understand for natural enemy-victim relationships, fear responses of hosts to the threat of infection by a parasite are relatively unknown. We examined larval amphibian (Lithobates pipiens) foraging choices by experimentally manipulating the presence of cues relating to predator (larval odonate) or parasite (the trematode Ribeiroia ondatrae) threats. Tadpoles avoided foraging where predator or parasite cues were present; however, they did not treat these as equal hazards. When both threats were simultaneously present, tadpoles strongly preferred to forage under the threat of parasitism compared to predation, likely driven by their relative lethality in our study. Our results indicate that altered spatial use is an important anti-parasite behaviour, and demonstrate that parasite avoidance can affect foraging in a manner similar to predators, warranting greater study of the pre-encounter effects of this enemy type.
Project description:Many studies have demonstrated that the nonconsumptive effect (NCE) of predators on prey traits can alter prey demographics in ways that are just as strong as the consumptive effect (CE) of predators. Less well studied, however, is how the CE and NCE of multiple predator species can interact to influence the combined effect of multiple predators on prey mortality. We examined the extent to which the NCE of one predator altered the CE of another predator on a shared prey and evaluated whether we can better predict the combined impact of multiple predators on prey when accounting for this influence. We conducted a set of experiments with larval dragonflies, adult newts (a known keystone predator), and their tadpole prey. We quantified the CE and NCE of each predator, the extent to which NCEs from one predator alters the CE of the second predator, and the combined effect of both predators on prey mortality. We then compared the combined effect of both predators on prey mortality to four predictive models. Dragonflies caused more tadpoles to hide under leaf litter (a NCE), where newts spend less time foraging, which reduced the foraging success (CE) of newts. Newts altered tadpole behavior but not in a way that altered the foraging success of dragonflies. Our study suggests that we can better predict the combined effect of multiple predators on prey when we incorporate the influence of interactions between the CE and NCE of multiple predators into a predictive model. In our case, the threat of predation to prey by one predator reduced the foraging efficiency of a keystone predator. Consequently, the ability of a predator to fill a keystone role could be compromised by the presence of other predators.
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:Humans are altering biodiversity globally and infectious diseases are on the rise; thus, there is interest in understanding how changes to biodiversity affect disease. Here, we explore how predator diversity shapes parasite transmission. In a mesocosm experiment that manipulated predator (larval dragonflies and damselflies) density and diversity, non-intraguild (non-IG) predators that only consume free-living cercariae (parasitic trematodes) reduced metacercarial infections in tadpoles, whereas intraguild (IG) predators that consume both parasites and tadpole hosts did not. This likely occurred because IG predators reduced tadpole densities and anticercarial behaviors, increasing per capita exposure rates of the surviving tadpoles (i.e., via density- and trait-mediated effects) despite the consumption of parasites. A mathematical model demonstrated that non-IG predators reduce macroparasite infections, but IG predation weakens this "dilution effect" and can even amplify parasite burdens. Consistent with the experiment and model, a wetland survey revealed that the diversity of IG predators was unrelated to metacercarial burdens in amphibians, but the diversity of non-IG predators was negatively correlated with infections. These results are strikingly similar to generalities that have emerged from the predator diversity-pest biocontrol literature, suggesting that there may be general mechanisms for pest control and that biocontrol research might inform disease management and vice versa. In summary, we identified a general trait of predators--where they fall on an IG predation continuum--that predicts their ability to reduce infections and possibly pests in general. Consequently, managing assemblages of predators represents an underused tool for the management of human and wildlife diseases and pest populations.
Project description:Predator-induced phenotypic plasticity is the ability of prey to adapt to their native predator. However, owing to environmental changes, encounters with unknown predators are inevitable. Therefore, study of prey and non-native predator interaction will reveal the primary stages of adaptive strategies in prey-predator interactions in the context of evolutionary processes. Here, Xenopus tadpoles exposed to a non-native predator, a larval salamander, showed a significant increase in body weight and tail length to body length ratio. The Tmax2 test indicated a significant enhancement of the tail muscle and decrease in the relative ventral fin height in tadpoles exposed to predation risk, leading to significantly higher average swimming speeds. The analysis of muscle-related metabolites revealed that sarcosine increased significantly in tadpoles exposed to non-native predators. Multiple linear regression analysis of the fast-start swimming pattern showed that the fast-start swimming speed was determined by the time required for a tadpole to bend its body away from the threat (C-start) and the angle at which it was bent. In conclusion, morphological changes in tadpoles were functionally adaptive and induced by survival behaviors of Xenopus tadpoles against non-native predators.
Project description:Many animals respond to predation risk by altering their morphology, behavior, or life-history. We know a great deal about the cues prey respond to and the changes to prey that can be induced by predation risk, but less is known about how plastic responses to predators may be affected by separate plastic responses occurring earlier in life, particularly during the embryonic period. Embryos of a broad array of taxa can respond to egg- or larval-stage risks by altering hatching timing, which may alter the way organisms respond to future predators. Using the red-eyed treefrog (Agalychnis callidryas), a model for understanding the effects of plasticity across life-stages, we assessed how the combined effects of induced variation in the timing of embryo hatching and variation in the larval predator community impacted tadpole morphology, pigmentation and swimming performance. We found that A. callidryas tadpoles developed deeper tail muscles and fins and darker pigmentation in response to fish predators, either when alone or in diverse community with other predators. Tadpoles altered morphology much less so to dragonfly naiads or water bugs. Interestingly, morphological responses to predators were also affected by induced differences in hatching age, with early and late-hatched tadpoles exhibiting different allometric relationships between tail height and body length in different predator environments. Beyond induced morphological changes, fish predators often damaged tadpoles' tails without killing them (i.e., sublethal predation), but these tadpoles swam equally quickly to those with fully intact tails. This was due to the fact that tadpoles with more damaged tails increased tail beats to achieve equal swimming speed. This study demonstrates that plastic phenotypic responses to predation risk can be influenced by a complex combination of responses to both the embryo and larval environments, but also that prey performance can be highly resilient to sublethal predation.
Project description:Tadpoles of the anuran species Rana pirica can undergo predator-specific morphological responses. Exposure to a predation threat by larvae of the salamander Hynobius retardatus results in formation of a bulgy body (bulgy morph) with a higher tail. Whereas, dragon fly also induced higher tail tadpole. The tadpoles revert to a normal phenotype upon removal of the larval salamander or dragon fly threat. The objective of the present study was to use Affymetrix Xenopus Genechip to profile gene expression in the tail tissue by different predation threat. Tadpoles of Rana pirica treated with larvae salamander for 8days (S1, S2, S3) or dragon fly for 8days (Y1,Y2, Y3) were analyzed with triplicate. Removal experiments were also treated with predators for 4days and then removed predators from tadpoles (-S1,-S2, -S3) or (-Y1,-Y2,-Y3). Controls were cultured for 8days without predators (C2, C3). Tails from tadpoles after 8days of each treatment were dissected for RNA extraction and gene expression analysis using Affymetrix Xenopus Genechip arrays.
Project description:Understanding the impacts of invasive species requires placing invasion within a full community context. Plant invaders are often considered in the context of herbivores that may drive invasion by avoiding invaders while consuming natives (enemy escape), or inhibit invasion by consuming invaders (biotic resistance). However, predators that attack those herbivores are rarely considered as major players in invasion. Invasive plants often promote predators, generally by providing improved habitat. Here, we show that predator-promoting invaders may initiate a negative feedback loop that inhibits invasion. By enabling top-down control of herbivores, predator-promoting invaders lose any advantage gained through enemy escape, indirectly favoring natives. In cases where palatable invaders encounter biotic resistance, predator promotion may allow an invader to persist, but not dominate. Overall, results indicate that placing invaders in a full community context may reveal reduced impacts of invaders compared to expectations based on simple plant-plant or plant-herbivore subsystems.
Project description:Predator-induced phenotypic plasticity has been widely documented in response to native predators, but studies examining the extent to which prey can respond to exotic invasive predators are scarce. As native prey often do not share a long evolutionary history with invasive predators, they may lack defenses against them. This can lead to population declines and even extinctions, making exotic predators a serious threat to biodiversity. Here, in a community-wide study, we examined the morphological and life-history responses of anuran larvae reared with the invasive red swamp crayfish, Procambarus clarkii, feeding on conspecific tadpoles. We reared tadpoles of nine species until metamorphosis and examined responses in terms of larval morphology, growth, and development, as well as their degree of phenotypic integration. These responses were compared with the ones developed in the presence of a native predator, the larval dragonfly Aeshna sp., also feeding on tadpoles. Eight of the nine species altered their morphology or life history when reared with the fed dragonfly, but only four when reared with the fed crayfish, suggesting among-species variation in the ability to respond to a novel predator. While morphological defenses were generally similar across species (deeper tails) and almost exclusively elicited in the presence of the fed dragonfly, life-history responses were very variable and commonly elicited in the presence of the invasive crayfish. Phenotypes induced in the presence of dragonfly were more integrated than in crayfish presence. The lack of response to the presence of the fed crayfish in five of the study species suggests higher risk of local extinction and ultimately reduced diversity of the invaded amphibian communities. Understanding how native prey species vary in their responses to invasive predators is important in predicting the impacts caused by newly established predator-prey interactions following biological invasions.
Project description:In a natural environment, foragers constantly face the risk of encountering predators. Fear is a defensive mechanism evolved to protect animals from danger by balancing the animals' needs for primary resources with the risk of predation, and the amygdala is implicated in mediating fear responses. However, the functions of fear and amygdala in foraging behavior are not well characterized because of the technical difficulty in quantifying prey-predator interaction with real (unpredictable) predators. Thus, the present study investigated the rat's foraging behavior in a seminaturalistic environment when confronted with a predator-like robot programmed to surge toward the animal seeking food. Rats initially fled into the nest and froze (demonstrating fear) and then cautiously approached and seized the food as a function of decreasing nest-food and increasing food-robot distances. The likelihood of procuring food increased and decreased via lesioning/inactivating and disinhibiting the amygdala, respectively. These results indicate that the amygdala bidirectionally regulates risk behavior in rats foraging in a dynamic fear environment.
Project description:Prey should adjust their defences against natural enemies to match their current level of risk and balance other needs. This is particularly important when optimal defences represent trade-offs, as is the case with many predator-induced trait-mediated indirect effects (TMIEs) that are antagonistic to those promoting host resistance to parasites and pathogens. However, trade-offs may depend on whether different natural enemies are present simultaneously or represent temporally discrete threats. We found that larval amphibians (Anaxyrus americanus) previously exposed to predator cues did not engage in anti-parasite behaviours (activity increases) in response to a current risk of infection by a pathogenic trematode parasite compared to controls, resulting in higher infection intensities. This suggests that the memory of the likely more lethal threat (predation) had greater influence, maladaptively dampening tadpole activity. Incorporating complexity inherent in natural systems, including spatial and temporal overlap, is necessary to better understand natural enemy ecology and how TMIEs relate to infectious diseases.