, Volume 141, Issue 1, pp 171–178 | Cite as

Habitat structural complexity mediates the foraging success of multiple predator species

Behavioural Ecology


We investigated the role of freshwater macrophytes as refuge by testing the hypothesis that predators capture fewer prey in more dense and structurally complex habitats. We also tested the hypothesis that habitat structure not only affects the prey-capture success of a single predator in isolation, but also the effectiveness of two predators combined, particularly if it mediates interactions between the predators. We conducted a fully crossed four-factorial laboratory experiment using artificial plants to determine the separate quantitative (density) and qualitative (shape) components of macrophyte structure on the prey-capture success of a predatory damselfly, Ischnura heterosticta tasmanica, and the southern pygmy perch, Nannoperca australis. Contrary to our expectations, macrophyte density had no effect on the prey-capture success of either predator, but both predators were significantly less effective in the structurally complex Myriophyllum analogue than in the structurally simpler Triglochin and Eleocharis analogues. Furthermore, the greater structural complexity of Myriophyllum amplified the impact of the negative interaction between the predators on prey numbers; the habitat use by damselfly larvae in response to the presence of southern pygmy perch meant they captured less prey in Myriophyllum. These results demonstrate habitat structure can influence multiple predator effects, and support the mechanism of increased prey refuge in more structurally complex macrophytes.


Macrophyte structure Multiple predators Non-additivity Predator–predator interactions 



We are grateful to Mr Henry Foster of Fosterville for access to the Macquarie River on his property. Mr Glenn Macpherson and Dr David Ratkowsky, both of the University of Tasmania, provided statistical advice during the planning of this investigation. The Inland Fisheries Service of Tasmania and the Animal Ethics Committee of the University of Tasmania provided the relevant permits and approvals to conduct this research. We would also like to thank Dr Todd Crowl (University of Utah), Dr Dan Soluk (University of Illinois), and two anonymous referees who provided useful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript, while William Elvey and Brett Mawbey provided valuable logistical support at various stages of the investigation. D. M. W. was supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award, and part of L. A. B.’s contribution was supported by a University of Tasmania Study Leave grant while at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Zoology and Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries InstituteUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.Water Resources DivisionDepartment of Primary Industries, Water and EnvironmentNew TownAustralia

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