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Predation risk tradeoffs in prey: effects on energy and behaviour

Khater, Marwa, Murariu, Dorian, Gras, Robin
Theoretical ecology 2016 v.9 no.3 pp. 251-268
behavior change, coevolution, ecosystems, energy, foraging, life history, long term effects, predation, predator-prey relationships, predators, reproduction, reproductive behavior, risk
The complexity of behavioural interactions in predator-prey systems has recently begun to capture trait-effects, or non-lethal effects, of predators on prey via induced behavioural changes. Non-lethal predation effects play crucial roles in shaping population and community dynamics, particularly by inducing changes to foraging, movement and reproductive behaviours of prey. Prey exhibit trade-offs in behaviours while minimizing predation risk. We use a novel evolutionary ecosystem simulation EcoSim to study such behavioural interactions and their effects on prey populations, thereby addressing the need for integrating multiple layers of complexity in behavioural ecology. EcoSim allows complex intra- and inter-specific interactions between behaviourally and genetically unique individuals called predators and prey, as well as complex predator-prey dynamics and coevolution in a tri-trophic and spatially heterogeneous world. We investigated the effects of predation risk on prey energy budgets and fitness. Results revealed that energy budgets, life history traits, allocation of energy to movements and fitness-related actions differed greatly between prey subjected to low-predation risk and high-predation risk. High-predation risk suppressed prey foraging activity, increased total movement and decreased reproduction relative to low-risk. We show that predation risk alone induces behavioural changes in prey which drastically affect population and community dynamics, and when interpreted within the evolutionary context of our simulation indicate that genetic changes accompanying coevolution have long-term effects on prey adaptability to the absence of predators.