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Predators do more than kill prey
Date:1/17/2008

ultiple food levels that closely approximated the natural differences in food availability that the killifish experienced in Trinidad.

Their results demonstrate how predators direct and indirect effects shaped the way killifish evolved:

  • Killifish from high predation environments are younger at maturity and produce more offspring the predicted direct evolutionary response to high mortality rates.
  • More food caused all fish to grow faster, then mature at a larger body size and earlier age, plus produce more babies.
  • Killifish from high predation environments gained more from high rations an indirect evolutionary response to high mortality rates. Their increase in size at maturity, decrease in age at maturity and increase in the number of babies produced were all more pronounced than those seen in killifish from the killifish-only environment differences that show that the high predation killifish were better adapted to convert high food rations into the production of more babies.

Study results appear in the Jan. 15 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research has generally focused on the evolutionary implications of the direct effects of interactions between predator and prey, said Walsh, a graduate student working in Reznicks lab in the Department of Biology and the first author of the research paper. But we found that the indirect effects of these interactions can be as important. Clearly, organisms become adapted to a given food level and evolve to best exploit their resources.

The researchers argue that in addition to killing prey, the indirect evolutionary and ecological effects of predators cause a restructuring of the community, which in turn contributes to shaping how killifish evolve.

Removing predators will not only alter the structure of the ecosystem, but will also cause a wider diver
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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