Community Ecology


, Volume 138, Issue 1, pp 102-111

First online:

A growth/mortality trade-off in larval salamanders and the coexistence of intraguild predators and prey

  • Kerry L. YurewiczAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of MichiganDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame Email author 

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Behavioral and morphological traits often influence a key trade-off between resource acquisition and vulnerability to predation, and understanding trait differences between species can provide critical insight into their interactions with other species and their distributions. Such an approach should enhance our understanding of the criteria for coexistence between species that can interact through both competition and predation (i.e. intraguild predators and prey). I conducted a common garden experiment that revealed strong differences between three guild members (larval salamanders Ambystoma laterale, A. maculatum, and A. tigrinum) in behavior, morphology, and growth in the presence and absence of a shared top predator (the larval dragonfly Anax longipes). All three species also reduced their activity and modified their tail fin depth, tail muscle length, and body length in response to non-lethal Anax. Species that act as intraguild predators were more active and could grow faster than their intraguild prey species, but they also suffered higher mortality in laboratory predation trials with Anax. I also used survey data from natural communities to compare the distribution of Ambystoma species between ponds differing in abiotic characteristics and predatory invertebrate assemblages. An intraguild prey species (A. maculatum) was found more reliably, occurred at higher densities, and was more likely to persist late into the larval period in ponds with more diverse invertebrate predator assemblages. Taken together, these results indicate that top predators such as Anax may play an important role in influencing intraguild interactions among Ambystoma and ultimately their local distribution patterns.


Ambystoma Behavior Morphology Phenotypic plasticity Predation risk