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Experimental determination of predation intensity in an intertidal predator guild: dominant versus subordinate prey

Authors

  • Sergio A. Navarrete,

  • Juan C. Castilla


S. A. Naverrete and J. C. Castilla, Depto de Ecologia, Estación Costera de Investigaciones Marinas and Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology & Biodiversity, P. Univ. Católica de Chile, Castilla 114-D, Santiago, Chile (snavarre@genes.bio.puc.cl).

Abstract

Theoretical and empirical ecologists have long acknowledged that information about the intensity or strength of the interaction between species is crucial for an understanding of community dynamics. In communities in which predation is an important structuring process, and some predator species are commercially exploited, quantitative estimates of predation by different predator species within a guild are necessary to make even the simplest recommendations about conservation and resource management. Here, we evaluated per capita and population level components of predation intensity of three intertidal predators that feed on monospecific stands of barnacles and mussels at wave exposed sites in the rocky intertidal zone of central Chile. These prey species represent the two most distinctive stages of the mid-intertidal seascape, with mussels being competitively dominant. Our results showed that the commercially exploited gastropod Concholepasconcholepas and the sea star Heliasterhelianthus have similarly large per capita and population effects on the competitively dominant mussel Perumytiluspurpuratus. Their per capita (by average size individual) and population effects on mussels were more than two orders of magnitude larger than those of Acanthocyclusgayi crabs and likely even larger than the effect of other predator species in this system (other crabs, whelks, birds, fish). The overall pattern of predation on barnacles was similar to that on mussels, but some differences occurred in the way different components of predation intensity were distributed across predator species. Despite the roughly similar pattern of population predation intensity between prey species, the expected consequences for the prey population, and hence the rest of the community, were acutely different for mussels and barnacles.

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