Flexible components of functional responses


Correspondence author. E-mail: okuyama@ntu.edu.tw


1. The functional response of predators describes the rate at which a predator consumes prey and is an important determinant of community dynamics. Despite the importance, most empirical studies have considered a limited number of models of functional response. In addition, the models often make strong assumptions about the pattern of predation processes, even though functional responses can potentially exhibit a wide variety of patterns.

2. In addition to the limited model consideration, model selections of functional response models cannot tease apart the components of predation (i.e. capture rate and handling time) when flexible traits are considered because it is always possible that many different combinations of the capture rate and handling time can lead to the same predation rate.

3. This study directly examined the capture rate and handling time of functional response in a mite community. To avoid the model selection problem, the searching and handling behaviour data were collected. The model selection was applied directly to these two components of predation data. Commonly used functional response models and models that allow for more flexible patterns were compared.

4. The results indicated that assumptions of the commonly used models were not supported by the data, and a flexible model was selected as the best model. These results suggest the need to consider a wider variety of predation patterns when characterizing a functional response. Without making a strong assumption (e.g. static handling time), model selections on functional response models cannot be used to make reliable inferences on the predation mechanisms.