Forms of Predation 14.1

Predation is defined generally as the consumption of all or part of one living organism by another. Forms of predation include carnivory, parasitoidism, cannibalism, and herbivory.

Model of Predation 14.2

A mathematical model that links the two populations through the processes of birth and death can describe interactions between predator and prey. Predation represents a source of mortality for the prey population, whereas the reproduction of the predator population is linked to the consumption of prey.

Population Cycles 14.3

The models of predator–prey interactions predict oscillations of predator and prey populations, with the predator population lagging behind that of the prey population.

Mutual Population Regulation 14.4

The results of the models assume mutual regulation of predator and prey populations. The growth rate of the prey population is influenced by the per capita consumption of prey by the predator population. The relationship between the per capita rate of consumption and the number of prey is referred to as the predator’s functional response. This increased consumption of prey results in an increase in predator reproduction referred to as the predator’s numerical response.

Functional Response 14.5

There are three types of functional responses. In Type I, the number of prey affected increases linearly. In Type II, the number of prey affected increases at a decreasing rate toward a maximum value. The Type II response is a function of allocation of feeding time by predators between the activities of searching for prey and handling prey (chasing, capturing, killing, consuming, etc.). In Type III, the number of prey consumed increases sigmoidally as the density of prey increases.

Numerical Response 14.6

A numerical response is the increase of predators with an increased food supply. Numerical response may involve an aggregative response: the influx of predators to a food-rich area. More important, a numerical response involves a change in the growth rate of a predator population through changes in fecundity.

Optimal Foraging 14.7

Central to the study of predation is the concept of optimal foraging. This approach to understanding the foraging behavior of animals assumes that natural selection favors “efficient” foragers, that is, individuals that maximize their energy or nutrient intake per unit of effort. Decisions are based on the relative profitability of alternative prey types, defined as the energy gained per unit of handling time. An optimal diet includes the most efficient size of prey for handling and net energy return.

Foraging Behavior and Risk of Predation 14.8

Most predators are also prey to other predatory species and thus face the risk of predation while involved in their routine activities, such as foraging. If predators are about, it may be to the forager’s advantage not to visit a most profitable but predator-prone area and to remain in a less profitable but more secure part of the habitat.

Coevolution of Predator and Prey 14.9

Prey species evolve characteristics to avoid being caught by predators. Predators have evolved their own strategies for overcoming these prey defenses. This process represents a coevolution of predator and prey in which each functions as an agent of natural selection on the other.

Predator Defenses 14.10

Chemical defense in animals usually takes the form of distasteful or toxic secretions that repel, warn, or inhibit would-be attackers. Cryptic coloration and behavioral patterns enable prey to escape detection. Warning coloration declares that the prey is distasteful or disagreeable. Some palatable species mimic unpalatable species for protection. Armor and aggressive use of toxins defend some prey. Alarms and distraction displays help others. Another form of defense is predator satiation wherein prey species produce many young at once so that predators can take only a fraction of them. Predator defenses can be classified as permanent or induced.

Predator Evolution 14.11

Predators have evolved different methods of hunting that include ambush, stalking, and pursuit. Predators also employ cryptic coloration for hiding and aggressive mimicry for imitating the appearance of prey.

Herbivory 14.12

Herbivory is a form of predation. The amount of plant or algal biomass actually eaten by herbivores varies between communities. Plants respond to defoliation with a flush of new growth, which draws down nutrient reserves. Such drawdown can weaken plants, especially woody ones, making them more vulnerable to insects and disease. Moderate grazing may stimulate leaf growth in grasses up to a point. By removing older leaves less active in photosynthesis, grazing stimulates the growth of new leaves.

Herbivore Defenses 14.13

Plants affect herbivores by denying them palatable or digestible food or by producing toxic substances that interfere with growth and reproduction. Certain specialized herbivores are able to breach the chemical defenses. They detoxify the secretions, block their flow, or sequester them in their own tissues as a defense against predators. Defenses can be either permanent (constitutive) or induced by damage inflicted by herbivores.

Vegetation–Herbivore–Carnivore Systems 14.14

Plant–herbivore and herbivore–carnivore systems are closely related. An example of a three-level feeding interaction is the cycle of vegetation, hares, and their predators. Malnourished hares fall quickly to predators. Recovery of hares follows recovery of plants and decline in predators.

Lethal and Nonlethal Influences 14.15

Besides influencing prey population directly through mortality, predators can cause changes in prey characteristics by inducing defense responses in prey morphology, physiology, or behavior. Reduced activity by prey in the presence of predators can reduce foraging time and food intake, subsequently delaying growth and development. The net result can be a reduction in the growth rate of the prey population.

Fisheries Management Ecological Issues & Applications

The harvesting of natural fish populations often leads to overexploitation and population decline. Management practices based on sustainable yield attempt to limit harvests to levels at which natural recruitment (reproduction) offsets mortality resulting from fishing activities.

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