Original Papers


, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 231-235

First online:

Invertebrate predator-prey body size relationships: an explanation for upper triangular food webs and patterns in food web structure?

  • P. H. WarrenAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of York
  • , J. H. LawtonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of York

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It has been suggested by Cohen and Newman (1985) that many of the patterns in published food webs can be derived from a stochastic model in which the species are arranged in a trophic hierarchy (the ‘cascade model’). We suggest that, if predators are larger than their prey, a trophic hierarchy can be generated on the basis of body size Empirical evidence from the literature shows that there is a positive relationship between predator and prey size for a range of invertebrates and that predators are usually larger than their prey. Using experimental data on an aquatic food web we show that body size can lead to the type of trophic hierarchy used in the cascade model, suggesting that many food web patterns may be a product of body size. This conclusion is discussed with respect to the limitations of the food web data and the relationship between ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ models of web structure.

Key words

Food webs Cascade model Body size