, Volume 177, Issue 3, pp 775–784 | Cite as

Effects of predation risk across a latitudinal temperature gradient

Community ecology - Original research


The nonconsumptive effects (NCEs) of predators on prey behavior and physiology can influence the structure and function of ecological communities. However, the strength of NCEs should depend on the physiological and environmental contexts in which prey must choose between food and safety. For ectotherms, temperature effects on metabolism and foraging rates may shape these choices, thereby altering NCE strength. We examined NCEs in a rocky intertidal food chain across a latitudinal sea surface temperature gradient within the Gulf of Maine. The NCEs of green crabs (Carcinus maenas) on the foraging, growth, and growth efficiency of prey snails (Nucella lapillus) were consistent across a broad (~8.5 °C) temperature range, even though snails that were transplanted south consumed twice as many mussels (Mytilus edulis) and grew twice as much as snails that were transplanted north. The positive effects of warmer temperatures in the south allowed snails under high risk to perform similarly to or better than snails under low risk at cooler temperatures. Our results suggest that for prey populations residing at temperatures below their thermal optimum, the positive effects of future warming may offset the negative effects of predation risk. Such effects may be favorable to prey populations facing increased predation rates due to warmer temperatures associated with climate change. Attention to the direct and indirect effects of temperature on species interactions should improve our ability to predict the effects of climate change on ecological communities.


Growth efficiency Nonconsumptive effect Nucella lapillus Thermal performance Trait-mediated interactions 



We thank S. June, S. Donelan, E. Forbes, K. McClure, and A. Milanese for assistance with the experiment and K. Jans for access to the field site in Lubec, Maine. This study is part of the PhD dissertation of CMM and was generously supported by the National Science Foundation through a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (IOS-1110675), grants OCE-0648525 and 0727628 to GCT, and OCE-0963010 to GCT et al. as part of the Academic Research Infrastructure Recovery and Reinvestment Program. This is contribution #320 from the Marine Science Center. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 2573 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marine Science CenterNortheastern UniversityNahantUSA

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