Giving predators a wide berth: quantifying behavioral predator shadows in colonizing aquatic beetles

Abstract

The perceived quality of habitat patches in complex landscapes is highly context dependent. Characteristics of neighboring patches in such complex landscapes can influence perceived habitat quality, altering colonization dynamics and community structure. Spatial contagion of predation risk across patches has been observed over smaller spatial scales in aquatic systems. Naturally colonizing aquatic beetles were used to examine the spatial dynamics of risk contagion by quantifying the size of predator shadows around fish patches across spatial scales potentially involving numerous patches in natural landscapes. These consisted of fish free, replicate experimental mesocosm arrays radiating from larger central mesocosms containing fish, and allowed examination of the effect of distance to fish on beetle abundance, rarified species richness, and variation in species responses. Overall, beetles avoided pools closer to fish, but species varied in colonization pattern, resulting in species-specific predator shadows and potential behavioral species sorting. The spatial and phylogenetic extent of contagion and other context-dependent effects has implications for the role of complex behavior in the dynamics of communities and metacommunities.

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Acknowledgements

M. Pintar, J. Bohenek, and L. Eveland helped with numerous aspects of the experiment. M. Pintar identified the beetles. The manuscript benefitted from the comments of J. Bohenek, M. Pintar, and T. Breech. Special thanks to D. Chalcraft for stimulating discussions on analysis and the nature of independence. The work was supported by The University of Mississippi and the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Foundation. Logistical support provided by the UM Field Station.

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WJR conceived and designed the experiment, analysed the data, and wrote the manuscript. No other person is entitled to authorship.

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Correspondence to William J. Resetarits Jr..

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All applicable institutional and national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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Communicated by Jill Lancaster.

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Resetarits, W.J. Giving predators a wide berth: quantifying behavioral predator shadows in colonizing aquatic beetles. Oecologia 186, 415–424 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-017-4024-z

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Keywords

  • Community assembly
  • Habitat selection
  • Phantom interactions
  • Remote effects
  • Risk contagion