The deadly effects of “nonlethal” predators

Authors

  • Shannon J. McCauley,

    Corresponding author
    1. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, 25 Willcocks Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3B2 Canada
    • Present address: Department of Biological Sciences, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California 93407-0401 USA. E-mail: smccauley@calpoly.edu

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  • Locke Rowe,

    1. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, 25 Willcocks Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3B2 Canada
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  • Marie-Josée Fortin

    1. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, 25 Willcocks Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3B2 Canada
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  • Corresponding Editor: K. O. Winemiller.

Abstract

Nonconsumptive predator effects are widespread and include plasticity as well as general stress responses. Caged predators are often used to estimate nonconsumptive effects, and numerous studies have focused on the larval stages of animals with complex life cycles. However, few of these studies test whether nonconsumptive predator effects, including stress responses, are exclusively sublethal. Nor have they assessed whether these effects extend beyond the larval stage, affecting success during stressful life-history transitions such as metamorphosis. We conducted experiments with larvae of a dragonfly (Leucorrhinia intacta) that exhibits predator-induced plasticity to assess whether the mere presence of predators affects larval survivorship, metamorphosis, and adult body size. Larvae exposed to caged predators with no ability to attack them had higher levels of mortality. In the second experiment, larvae reared with caged predators had higher rates of metamorphic failure, but there was no effect on adult body size. Our results suggest that stress responses induced by exposure to predator cues increase the vulnerability of prey to other mortality factors, and that mere exposure to predators can result in significant increases in mortality.

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