The impact of a sit-and-wait predator: separating consumption and prey emigration


  • Guy Woodward,

  • Alan G. Hildrew

G. Woodward and A. G. Hildrew, School of Biological Sciences, Queen Mary Univ. of London, London, E1 4NS, U.K (present address of GW: Dept of Zoology and Animal Ecology, Univ. College Cork, Ireland []).


Reviews of the impact of invertebrate predators in enclosure/exclosure experiments suggest that much of the apparent depletion of prey is due to prey emigration induced by the predators. However, these generalisations derive mainly from studies of invertebrate predators that are predominantly active searchers (usually stoneflies) and of prey with strong avoidance responses (mainly mayflies).

We examined the impact of a large sit-and-wait predator, the nymph of the dragonfly Cordulegaster boltonii, which has recently invaded Broadstone Stream as a new top predator. Field enclosure/exclosure experiments were conducted to assess the impact of the invader on the benthos. Depletion of prey varied seasonally and among taxa, and was highest when prey density and encounter rates were high. Mobile prey, although least likely to show a statistically significant response because of high exchange rates, were those most strongly depleted.

Experimental channels were used to separate the relative contribution of consumption and emigration to total impact for the two most depleted prey species. Depletion of prey was due solely to consumption and predators did not induce emigration. We therefore urge caution in making generalisations about the impacts of invertebrate predators, since sit-and-wait and searching predators potentially have very different impacts.