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Are all prey created equal? A review and synthesis of differential predation on prey in substandard condition

December 1, 1994

Our understanding of predator-prey interactions in fishes has been influenced largely by research assuming that the condition of the participants is normal. However, fish populations today often reside in anthropogenically altered environments and are subjected to many kinds of stressors, which may reduce their ecological performance by adversely affecting their morphology, physiology, or behaviour. One consequence is that either the predator or prey, or both, may be in a substandard condition at the time of an interaction. We reviewed the literature on predator-prey interactions in fishes where substandard prey were used as experimental groups. Although most of this research indicates that such prey are significantly more vulnerable to predation, prey condition has rarely been considered in ecological theory regarding predator-prey interactions. The causal mechanisms for increased vulnerability of substandard prey to predation include a failure to detect predators, lapses in decision-making, poor fast-start performance, inability to shoal effectively, and increased prey conspicuousness. Despite some problems associated with empirical predator-prey studies using substandard prey, their results can have theoretical and applied uses, such as in ecological modelling or justification of corrective measures to be implemented in the wild. There is a need for more corroborative field experimentation, a better understanding of the causal mechanisms behind differential predation, and increased incorporation of prey condition into the research of predator-prey modellers and theoreticians. If the concept of prey condition is considered in predator-prey interactions, our understanding of how such interactions influence the structure and dynamics of fish communities is likely to change, which should prove beneficial to aquatic ecosystems.

Publication Year 1994
Title Are all prey created equal? A review and synthesis of differential predation on prey in substandard condition
DOI 10.1111/j.1095-8649.1994.tb01085.x
Authors Matthew G. Mesa, Thomas P. Poe, Dena M. Gadomski, James H. Petersen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Fish Biology
Index ID 70180410
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center