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Associations between Non-Lethal Injury, Body Size, and Foraging Ecology in an Amphibian Intraguild Predator

Authors

  • Cy L. Mott,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA, USA
    2. Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, Department of Zoology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, USA
    • Correspondence

      Cy L. Mott, Department of Biology, Valdosta State University, 1500 North Patterson Street, Valdosta, GA 31698, USA.

      E-mail: cy.mott@gmail.com

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  • Michael A. Steffen

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK, USA
    2. Department of Zoology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, USA
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Abstract

Theoretical treatments of intraguild predation and its effects on behavioral interactions regard the phenomenon as a size-structured binary response wherein predation among competitors is completely successful or completely unsuccessful. However, intermediate outcomes occur when individuals escape intraguild (IG) interactions with non-lethal injuries. While the effects of wounds for prey include compromised mobility and increased predation risk, the consequences of similar injuries among top predators are not well understood, despite the implications for species interactions. Using an amphibian IG predator, Ambystoma opacum (Caudata: Ambystomatidae), we examined associations between non-lethal injuries and predator body size, foraging strategy, microhabitat selection, and intraspecific agonistic interactions. Wounds were common among IG predators, generally increasing in frequency throughout larval ontogeny. Non-lethal injuries were associated with differences in predator body size and behavior, with injured predators exhibiting smaller body sizes, increased use of benthic microhabitats, reduced agonistic displays, and increased risk of intraspecific aggression. While such effects were not ultimately associated with reduced foraging success, non-lethal injury could contribute to niche partitioning between injured and healthy predators via habitat selection, but injured predators likely continue to exert predatory pressure on IG and basal prey populations. Our results indicate that studies of top-down population regulation should incorporate injury-related modifications to both prey and predator behavior and size structure.

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