Variation in consumer pressure along 2500 km in a major upwelling system: crab predators are more important at higher latitudes
Consumer pressure in benthic communities is predicted to be higher at low than at high latitudes, but support for this pattern has been ambiguous, especially for herbivory. To understand large-scale variation in biotic interactions, we quantify consumption (predation and herbivory) along 2500 km of the Chilean coast (19°S–42°S). We deployed tethering assays at ten sites with three different baits: the crab Petrolisthes laevigatus as living prey for predators, dried squid as dead prey for predators/scavengers, and the kelp Lessonia spp. for herbivores. Underwater videos were used to characterize the consumer community and identify those species consuming baits. The species composition of consumers, frequency of occurrence, and maximum abundance (MaxN) of crustaceans and the blenniid fish Scartichthys spp. varied across sites. Consumption of P. laevigatus and kelp did not vary with latitude, while squid baits were consumed more quickly at mid and high latitudes. This is likely explained by the increased occurrence of predatory crabs, which was positively correlated with consumption of squidpops after 2 h. Crabs, rather than fish, were the principal consumers of squid baits (91% of all recorded predation events) at sites south of 30°S. Fish and crustaceans preyed in similar proportion on P. laevigatus, with most fish predation events at northern sites. The absence of any strong latitudinal patterns in consumption rate of tethered prey is likely due to redundancy among consumers across the latitudinal range, with crustaceans gaining in importance with increasing latitude, possibly replacing fish as key predators.
We are grateful to the local fishermen who allowed us to work in their fishing areas and helped with logistics at many of our study sites. We also thank Boris Lopez for his help with Fig. 1 and Maria de los Angeles Gallardo for her help in identifying some brachyuran crabs. Two anonymous reviewers provided many constructive suggestions that helped to improve the original manuscript.
MT conceived the study, with the support of WBS, IAH, ECM, ASP, AP-M, and NV. CAM, MT, and AGBP wrote the manuscript. OP-O, NR-P, and VV developed the experimental design and conducted the field and laboratory experiments. CAM reviewed videos and organized data and together with AGBP did the statistical analyses. All authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript and all authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.
This study was financed by a FONDECYT Grant (CONICYT-FONDECYT 1161383).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution at which the studies were conducted and ethical approval was obtained from the Comité Ético Científico de la Universidad Católica del Norte, Sede Coquimbo (resolution 2019-4), following applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals. All field surveys were conducted under the resolution 2649 from the “Subsecretaría de Pesca y Acuicultura” (SUBPESCA) published in the “Official Newspaper of Chilean Republic”, num. 41,553 on September 2016.
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