, Volume 156, Issue 2, pp 399-409
Date: 05 Mar 2008

Alteration of sensory abilities regulates the spatial scale of nonlethal predator effects

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Many studies have shown that nonlethal predator effects such as trait-mediated interactions (TMIs) can have significant impacts on the structure and function of communities, but the role that environmental conditions play in modulating the scale and magnitude of these effects has not been carefully investigated. TMIs occur when prey exhibit behavioral or physiological responses to predators and may be more prevalent when abiotic conditions increase prey reactions to consumers. The purpose of this study was to determine if turbulence would alter the distance over which prey in aquatic systems respond to chemical cues emitted by predators in nature, thus changing the scales over which nonlethal predator effects occur. Using hard clams and blue crabs as a model predator–prey system, we investigated the effects of turbulence on clam reactive distance to predatory blue crabs in the field. Results suggest that turbulence diminishes clam reactions to predators and that the environmental context must be considered when predicting the extent of indirect predator effects in natural systems.

Communicated by Pete Peterson.