, Volume 137, Issue 3, pp 352–359 | Cite as

Resource-mediated impact of spider predation risk on performance in the grasshopper Ageneotettix deorum (Orthoptera: Acrididae)

Population Ecology


In response to increased exposure to predators when searching for food, many prey increase the frequency of antipredator behaviors, potentially reducing foraging rate and food intake. Such direct, nonlethal interactions between predators and prey resulting in reduced food intake can indirectly influence lifecycle development through effects on growth, developmental rate, and survival. We investigated the general hypothesis that individual performance of a herbivorous insect can be negatively affected when exposed to nonlethal predation risk, and that the response can be mediated by food quality. This hypothesis was tested using the common rangeland grasshopper Ageneotettix deorum with and without exposure to common wolf spider predators (Lycosidae, Schizocosa spp.) on both untreated natural and fertilized vegetation. All spiders were rendered temporarily incapable of direct feeding by restricting function of the chelicerae with beeswax. Detectable responses by grasshoppers to spiders indicate indirect consequences for lifecycle development. Grasshopper performance was measured as hind femur growth, duration of nymphal lifecycle stages, and survivorship in a caged field experiment conducted over 2 years. Grasshoppers developed faster and grew 3–5% larger when allowed to forage on fertilized vegetation in the absence of risk from a spider predator. Failure-time analysis illustrated enhanced survival probability in response to elevated food quality and the negative effects of grasshopper susceptibility to nonlethal predation risk. Performance on food of relatively low, ambient quality with no predation risk equaled that of grasshoppers caged with high quality vegetation in the presence of a modified spider. Increased resource quality can clearly moderate the negative life history responses caused by the behavioral modification of grasshoppers when exposed to spider predation risk, a compensatory response.


Compensatory responses Nonlethal interactions Grasshopper ecology Lycosid wolf spider predation Nebraska Sandhills grassland 



We greatly appreciate logistical support provided by Cedar Point Biological Station (University of Nebraska-Lincoln). Arapaho Prairie is owned by the Nature Conservancy and managed by Cedar Point Biological Station. We also thank J. Holtz, S. Louda, O. Schmitz, K. Stoner and two anonymous reviewers for providing important insights regarding the research and critical comments on the manuscript. Research was supported by NSF grant 0087253 and supplemented by funds provided by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Center for Great Plains Studies, the Initiative for Ecological and Evolutionary Analysis and the School of Biological Sciences.


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© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA

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