, Volume 171, Issue 4, pp 961–969

Biogeographic variation in behavioral and morphological responses to predation risk

Community ecology - Original research

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-012-2450-5

Cite this article as:
Large, S.I. & Smee, D.L. Oecologia (2013) 171: 961. doi:10.1007/s00442-012-2450-5


The expression of prey antipredator defenses is often related to ambient consumer pressure, and prey express greater defenses under intense consumer pressure. Predation is generally greater at lower latitudes, and antipredator defenses often display a biogeographic pattern. Predation pressure may also vary significantly between habitats within latitudes, making biogeographic patterns difficult to distinguish. Furthermore, invasive predators may also influence the expression of prey defenses in ecological time. The purpose of this study was to determine how these factors influence the strength of antipredator responses. To assess patterns in prey antipredator defenses based upon geographic range (north vs. south), habitat type (wave-protected vs. wave-exposed shores), and invasive predators, we examined how native rock (Cancer irroratus) and invasive green (Carcinus maenas) crab predators influence the behavioral and morphological defenses of dogwhelk (Nucella lapillus) prey from habitats that differ in wave exposure across an ~230 km range within the Gulf of Maine. The expression of behavioral and morphological antipredatory responses varied according to wave exposure, geographic location, and predator species. Dogwhelks from areas with an established history with green crabs exhibited the largest behavioral and morphological antipredator responses to green crabs. Dogwhelk behavioral responses to rock crabs did not vary between habitats or geographic regions, although morphological responses were greater further south where predation pressure was greatest. These findings suggest that dogwhelk responses to invasive and native predators vary according to geographic location and habitat, and are strongly affected by ambient predation pressure due to the invasion history of an exotic predator.


Nucella lapillus Carcinus maenas Predator–prey interaction Animal behavior Indirect interaction 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Texas A&M University-Corpus ChristiCorpus ChristiUSA
  2. 2.Northeast Fisheries Science CenterNational Marine Fisheries Service-NOAABarnstableUSA

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