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Do intraspecific or interspecific interactions determine responses to predators feeding on a shared size‐structured prey community?

Brink, Hanna, Mazumdar, Abul Kalam Azad, Huddart, Joseph, Persson, Lennart, Cameron, Tom C., Rudolf, Volker
The journal of animal ecology 2015 v.84 no.2 pp. 414-426
animal ecology, body size, fish, invertebrates, predation, predators, zooplankton
Coexistence of predators that share the same prey is common. This is still the case in size‐structured predator communities where predators consume prey species of different sizes (interspecific prey responses) or consume different size classes of the same species of prey (intraspecific prey responses). A mechanism has recently been proposed to explain coexistence between predators that differ in size but share the same prey species, emergent facilitation, which is dependent on strong intraspecific responses from one or more prey species. Under emergent facilitation, predators can depend on each other for invasion, persistence or success in a size‐structured prey community. Experimental evidence for intraspecific size‐structured responses in prey populations remains rare, and further questions remain about direct interactions between predators that could prevent or limit any positive effects between predators [e.g. intraguild predation (IGP)]. Here, we provide a community‐wide experiment on emergent facilitation including natural predators. We investigate both the direct interactions between two predators that differ in body size (fish vs. invertebrate predator), and the indirect interaction between them via their shared prey community (zooplankton). Our evidence supports the most likely expectation of interactions between differently sized predators that IGP rates are high, and interspecific interactions in the shared prey community dominate the response to predation (i.e. predator‐mediated competition). The question of whether emergent facilitation occurs frequently in nature requires more empirical and theoretical attention, specifically to address the likelihood that its pre‐conditions may co‐occur with high rates of IGP.