The interplay between density- and trait-mediated effects in predator-prey interactions: a case study in aphid wing polymorphism
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Natural enemies not only influence prey density but they can also cause the modification of traits in their victims. While such non-lethal effects can be very important for the dynamic and structure of prey populations, little is known about their interaction with the density-mediated effects of natural enemies. We investigated the relationship between predation rate, prey density and trait modification in two aphid-aphid predator interactions. Pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum, Harris) have been shown to produce winged dispersal morphs in response to the presence of ladybirds or parasitoid natural enemies. This trait modification influences the ability of aphids to disperse and to colonise new habitats, and hence has a bearing on the population dynamics of the prey. In two experiments we examined wing induction in pea aphids as a function of the rate of predation when hoverfly larvae (Episyrphus balteatus) and lacewing larvae (Chrysoperla carnea) were allowed to forage in pea aphid colonies. Both hoverfly and lacewing larvae caused a significant increase in the percentage of winged morphs among offspring compared to control treatments, emphasising that wing induction in the presence of natural enemies is a general response in pea aphids. The percentage of winged offspring was, however, dependent on the rate of predation, with a small effect of predation on aphid wing induction at very high and very low predation rates, and a strong response of aphids at medium predation rates. Aphid wing induction was influenced by the interplay between predation rate and the resultant prey density. Our results suggests that density-mediated and trait-mediated effects of natural enemies are closely connected to each other and jointly determine the effect of natural enemies on prey population dynamics.