Environmental and Ecological Statistics

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 317–336 | Cite as

Formal modelling of predator preferences using molecular gut-content analysis

  • Edward A. RoualdesEmail author
  • Simon J. Bonner
  • Thomas D. Whitney
  • James D. Harwood


The literature on modelling a predator’s prey selection describes many intuitive indices, few of which have both reasonable statistical justification and tractable asymptotic properties. Here, we provide a simple model that meets both of these criteria, while extending previous work to include an array of data from multiple species and time points. Further, we apply the expectation–maximisation algorithm to compute estimates if exact counts of the number of prey species eaten in a particular time period are not observed. We conduct a simulation study to demonstrate the accuracy of our method, and illustrate the utility of the approach for field analysis of predation using a real data set, collected on wolf spiders using molecular gut-content analysis.


Electivity Expectation–maximisation Food web analysis Generalist predators Predator–prey interactions 



The information reported in this paper (No. 15-08-008) is part of a project of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station and is published with the approval of the Director. Support for this research was provided by the University of Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station State Project KY008055 and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of StatisticsUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsCalifornia State University, ChicoChicoUSA
  4. 4.Department of Statistical and Actuarial Sciences and Department of BiologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  5. 5.Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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