Keep calm and don't stop growing: Non-consumptive effects of a sympatric predator on two invasive Ponto-Caspian gammarids Dikerogammarus villosus and Pontogammarus robustoides.
ABSTRACT: Predators shape prey populations by elimination of individuals (consumptive effects) and by inducing modifications in prey behaviour, physiology or morphology (NCE-non-consumptive effects). Due to the resource allocation to defence, decreased feeding and higher stress, the costs of predator NCEs can be considerable. Therefore, the resistance to NCEs may be crucial for population growth and interspecific competition. We tested the resistance of Ponto-Caspian gammarids Dikerogammarus villosus and Pontogammarus robustoides to NCEs imposed by their predator, the racer goby Babka gymnotrachelus. As D. villosus is often avoided by predators in the presence of alternative food, we hypothesised that it would bear lower behavioural and physiological costs of anti-predator responses. We tested gammarid feeding in short-time experiments (2-4 h) with food (chironomid larvae) located at various distances from the stony shelter (to enforce food searching, Experiment I) or in the direct gammarid proximity (no searching needed, Experiment II). Moreover, we checked the predator effect on gammarid growth in a 2-week Experiment III. Both gammarids exposed to predators reduced feeding efficiency outside the shelter (Experiment I). Contrary to our expectations, the response of D. villosus was stronger. When food was provided in their direct proximity (Experiment II), the feeding of both species was unaffected by predators, indicating that a shelter supplied with food can reduce predator NCEs. The growth of P. robustoides was reduced in the presence of predators (Experiment III), whereas that of D. villosus was unaffected. Although D. villosus has a more effective defence strategy than P. robustoides, it bears similar or even higher behavioural costs of NCEs. However, it exhibits the higher resistance to the long-term predator presence, sustaining its growth rate under such conditions. This may be one of the factors contributing to the great invasion success of D. villosus, currently taking place in European fresh waters.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Worldwide freshwater ecosystems are increasingly affected by invasive alien species. In particular, Ponto-Caspian gobiid fishes and amphipods are suspected to have pronounced effects on aquatic food webs. However, there is a lack of systematic studies mechanistically testing the potential synergistic effects of invasive species on native fauna. In this study we investigated the interrelations between the invasive amphipod Dikerogammarus villosus and the invasive fish species Neogobius melanostomus in their effects on the native amphipod Gammarus pulex. We hypothesized selective predation by the fish as a driver for displacement of native species resulting in potential extinction of G. pulex. The survival of G. pulex in the presence of N. melanostomus in relation to the presence of D. villosus and availability of shelter was analyzed in the context of behavioural differences between the amphipod species. RESULTS:Gammarus pulex had a significantly higher susceptibility to predation by N. melanostomus compared to D. villosus in all experiments, suggesting preferential predation by this fish on native gammarids. Furthermore, the presence of D. villosus significantly increased the vulnerability of G. pulex to fish predation. Habitat structure was an important factor for swimming activity of amphipods and their mortality, resulting in a threefold decrease in amphipods consumed with shelter habitat structures provided. Behavioral differences in swimming activity were additionally responsible for higher predation rates on G. pulex. Intraguild predation could be neglected within short experimental durations. CONCLUSIONS:The results of this study provide evidence for synergistic effects of the two invasive Ponto-Caspian species on the native amphipod as an underlying process of species displacements during invasion processes. Prey behaviour and monotonous habitat structures additionally contribute to the decline of the native gammarid fauna in the upper Danube River and elsewhere.
Project description:Non-consumptive effects (NCEs) of predators are part of the complex interactions among insect natural enemies and prey. NCEs have been shown to significantly affect prey foraging and feeding. Leafhopper's (Auchenorrhyncha) lengthy phloem feeding bouts may play a role in pathogen transmission in vector species and also exposes them to predation risk. However, NCEs on leafhoppers have been scarcely studied, and we lack basic information about how anti-predator behaviour influences foraging and feeding in these species. Here we report a study on non-consumptive and consumptive predator-prey interactions in a naturally co-occurring spider-leafhopper system. In mesocosm arenas we studied movement patterns during foraging and feeding of the leafhopper Psammotettix alienus in the presence of the spider predator Tibellus oblongus. Leafhoppers delayed feeding and fed much less often when the spider was present. Foraging movement pattern changed under predation risk: movements became more frequent and brief. There was considerable individual variation in foraging movement activity. Those individuals that increased movement activity in the presence of predators exposed themselves to higher predation risk. However, surviving individuals exhibited a 'cool headed' reaction to spider presence by moving less than leafhoppers in control trials. No leafhoppers were preyed upon while feeding. We consider delayed feeding as a "paradoxical" antipredator tactic, since it is not necessarily an optimal strategy against a sit-and-wait generalist predator.
Project description:The number of prey killed by diverse predator communities is determined by complementarity and interference among predators, and by traits of particular predator species. However, it is less clear how predators' nonconsumptive effects (NCEs) scale with increasing predator biodiversity. We examined NCEs exerted on Culex mosquitoes by a diverse community of aquatic predators. In the field, mosquito larvae co-occurred with differing densities and species compositions of mesopredator insects; top predator dragonfly naiads were present in roughly half of surveyed water bodies. We reproduced these predator community features in artificial ponds, exposing mosquito larvae to predator cues and measuring resulting effects on mosquito traits throughout development. Nonconsumptive effects of various combinations of mesopredator species reduced the survival of mosquito larvae to pupation, and reduced the size and longevity of adult mosquitoes that later emerged from the water. Intriguingly, adding single dragonfly naiads to ponds restored survivorship of larval mosquitoes to levels seen in the absence of predators, and further decreased adult mosquito longevity compared with mosquitoes emerging from mesopredator treatments. Behavioral observations revealed that mosquito larvae regularly deployed "diving" escape behavior in the presence of the mesopredators, but not when a dragonfly naiad was also present. This suggests that dragonflies may have relaxed NCEs of the mesopredators by causing mosquitoes to abandon energetically costly diving. Our study demonstrates that adding one individual of a functionally unique species can substantially alter community-wide NCEs of predators on prey. For pathogen vectors like mosquitoes, this could in turn influence disease dynamics.
Project description:Ecosystems are being altered on a global scale by the extirpation of top predators. The ecological effects of predator removal have been investigated widely; however, predator removal can also change natural selection acting on prey, resulting in contemporary evolution. Here we tested the role of predator removal on the contemporary evolution of trophic traits in prey. We utilized a historical introduction experiment where Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) were relocated from a site with predatory fishes to a site lacking predators. To assess the trophic consequences of predator release, we linked individual morphology (cranial, jaw, and body) to foraging performance. Our results show that predator release caused an increase in guppy density and a "sharpening" of guppy trophic traits, which enhanced food consumption rates. Predator release appears to have shifted natural selection away from predator escape ability and towards resource acquisition ability. Related diet and mesocosm studies suggest that this shift enhances the impact of guppies on lower trophic levels in a fashion nuanced by the omnivorous feeding ecology of the species. We conclude that extirpation of top predators may commonly select for enhanced feeding performance in prey, with important cascading consequences for communities and ecosystems.
Project description:As humans continue to alter the species composition and size structure of marine food webs, it is critical to understand size-dependent effects of predators on prey. Yet, how shifts in predator body size mediate the effect of predators is understudied in tropical marine ecosystems, where anthropogenic harvest has indirectly increased the density and size of small-bodied predators. Here, we combine field surveys and a laboratory feeding experiment in coral reef fish communities to show that small and large predators of the same species can have similar effects. Specifically, surveys show that the presence of a small predator (Paracirrhites arcatus) was correlated with lower chances of prey fish presence, but these correlations were independent of predator size. Experimental trials corroborated the size-independent effect of the predator; attack rates were indistinguishable between small and large predators, suggesting relatively even effects of hawkfish in various size classes on the same type of prey. Our results indicate that the effects of small predators on coral reefs can be size-independent, suggesting that variation in predator size-structure alone may not always affect the functional role of these predators.
Project description:Pharmaceuticals contribute greatly to human and animal health. Given their specific biological targets, pharmaceuticals pose a significant environmental risk by affecting organisms and ecosystem processes, including leaf-litter decomposition. Although litter decomposition is a central process in forest streams, the consequences of exposure to pharmaceuticals remain poorly known. The present study assessed the impact of antibiotics as an important class of pharmaceuticals on the growth of the leaf-shredding amphipod Gammarus fossarum over 24?days. Exposure scenarios involved an antibiotic mixture (i.e. sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim, erythromycin-H<sub>2</sub>O, roxithromycin, clarithromycin) at 0, 2 and 200?µg/L to assess impacts resulting from exposure to both water and food. The antibiotics had no effect on either leaf-associated fungal biomass or bacterial abundance. However, modification of leaf quality (e.g. through shifts in leaf-associated microbial communities) may have triggered faster growth of gammarids (assessed in terms of body mass gain) at the low antibiotic concentration relative to the control. At 200?µg/L, however, gammarid growth was not stimulated. This outcome might be due to a modified ability of the gut microflora to assimilate nutrients and carbon. Furthermore, the observed lack of increases in the diameter of the gammarids' peduncles, despite an increase in gammarid mass, suggests antibiotic-induced effects in the moulting cycle. Although the processes responsible for the observed effects have not yet been identified, these results suggest a potential role of food-quality, gammarid gut microflora and alteration in the moulting cycle in mediating impacts of antibiotics on these detritivores and the leaf decomposition process in streams.
Project description:Body size and environmental prey availability are both key factors determining feeding habits of gape-limited fish predators. However, our understanding of their interactive or relative effects is still limited. In this study, we performed quantitative dietary analysis of different body sizes of goby (Gymnogobius isaza) specimens collected from Lake Biwa between 1962 and 2004. First, we report that the diet was composed mainly of zooplankton (cladocerans and copepods) before the 1980s, and thereafter, shifted to zoobenthos (gammarids). This foraging shift coincided with, and thus can be linked to, known historical events in the lake at that time: decrease in zooplankton abundance with the alleviation of eutrophication, increase in fish body size resulting from fish population collapse, and increase in gammarid abundance due to reduced fish predation pressure. Supporting this view, our data analyses revealed how the long-term changes in the diet composition would be co-mediated by changes in fish body size and environmental prey availability. Specifically, while zoobenthos abundance strongly affected the fish diet composition, larger (smaller) fish preferred zoobenthos (zooplankton). Furthermore, the body size effects were stronger than those of prey availability. These results provide the best long-term evidence that fish feeding habits vary over decades with its body size and prey community due to anthropogenic disturbances.
Project description:Freshwater food webs are dominated by aquatic invertebrates whose trophic relationships are often poorly known. Here, I used laboratory experiments to study the role of a water bug, Sigara striata, as a potential predator and prey in food webs of stagnant waters. Multiple-choice predation experiment revealed that Sigara, which had been considered mostly herbivorous, also consumed larvae of Chironomus midges. Because they often occur in high densities and are among the most ubiquitous aquatic insects, Sigara water bugs may be important predators in fresh waters. A second experiment tested the role of Sigara as a potential prey for 13 common invertebrate predators. Mortality of Sigara inflicted by different predators varied widely, especially depending on body mass, foraging mode (ambush/searching) and feeding mode (chewing/suctorial) of the predators. Sigara was highly vulnerable to ambush predators, while searching predators caused on average 8.1 times lower mortality of Sigara. Additionally, suctorial predators consumed on average 6.6 times more Sigara individuals than chewing predators, which supports previous results hinting on potentially different predation pressures of these two types of predators on prey populations. The importance of these two foraging-related traits demonstrates the need to move from body mass based to multiple trait based descriptions of food web structure. Overall, the results suggests that detailed experimental studies of common but insufficiently known species can significantly enhance our understanding of food web structure.
Project description:Increasing environmental pressures and human impacts are reshaping community structures and species interactions throughout all trophic levels. The morphological and behavioural characteristics of species communities contain key ecological information on why prey species appear attractive to predators but are rarely applied when exploring predator-prey (PP) relationships. Expanding our knowledge on how changing prey communities can alter the food resource suitability (RS) for predators is vital for understanding PP dynamics in changing ecosystems. Detailed predator diet data are commonly restricted to commercially important species and often not available over long temporal scales. To find out whether structural changes of prey communities impact the food RS for predator communities over space and time, we apply a novel framework to describe and interpret changes in predator diet-suitability based on predation-relevant traits of prey. We use information on described feeding links from the literature to compile the prey spectrum for each predator and subsequently translate the prey-species into a prey-trait spectrum. For each predator, we then calculate a frequency-based prey-trait affinity score and relate it to the available food resource pool, the community weighted means of prey traits, resulting in a prey-suitability measure. We aim to reveal whether a described multi-decadal change in the community structure of zoobenthos had an impact on the food suitability for the benthic-feeding fish in a coastal system of the Baltic Sea. We assess the direction of change in resource quality from the perspective of benthic-feeding fish and describe predator-specific responses to examine which species are likely to profit or be disadvantaged by changes in their prey spectrum. Furthermore, we test the relationship between functional diversity of prey communities and food suitability for predators, and whether predation linkage-structures are affected through prey community-changes. Our results show that changes in zoobenthic communities had a positive effect on the food suitability for most benthic-feeding fish, implying more suitable food resources. Species-specific responses of predators suggest varying plasticity to cope with prey assemblages of different trait compositions. Additionally, the functional diversity of zoobenthos had a positive effect on the food suitability for predator fish. The changing trait compositions of prey influenced the PP linkage-structure, indicating varying specialisation of benthic feeding fish towards available food resources. Our findings suggest that changing morphological characteristics of prey can impact food RS features for its predators. This approach enables long-term evaluation of prey quality characteristics where no detailed diet data is available and allows for cross-system comparison as it is not relying on taxonomic identities per se.
Project description:Invasive predators can have dramatic impacts on invaded communities. Extreme declines in macroinvertebrate populations often follow killer shrimp (Dikerogammarus villosus) invasions. There are concerns over similar impacts on fish through predation of eggs and larvae, but these remain poorly quantified. We compare the predatory impact of invasive and native amphipods (D. villosus and Gammarus pulex) on fish eggs and larvae (ghost carp Cyprinus carpio and brown trout Salmo trutta) in the laboratory. We use size-matched amphipods, as well as larger D. villosus reflecting natural sizes. We quantify functional responses, and electivity amongst eggs or larvae and alternative food items (invertebrate, plant and decaying leaf). D. villosus, especially large individuals, were more likely than G. pulex to kill trout larvae. However, the magnitude of predation was low (seldom more than one larva killed over 48 h). Trout eggs were very rarely killed. In contrast, carp eggs and larvae were readily killed and consumed by all amphipod groups. Large D. villosus had maximum feeding rates 1.6-2.0 times higher than the smaller amphipods, whose functional responses did not differ. In electivity experiments with carp eggs, large D. villosus consumed the most eggs and the most food in total. However, in experiments with larvae, consumption did not differ between amphipod groups. Overall, our data suggest D. villosus will have a greater predatory impact on fish populations than G. pulex, primarily due to its larger size. Higher invader abundance could amplify this difference. The additional predatory pressure could reduce recruitment into fish populations.