Predator-prey interactions shape thermal patch use in a newt larvae-dragonfly nymph model
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Engineering sciences. Technology
, p. 1-6
University of Antwerp
Thermal quality and predation risk are considered important factors influencing habitat patch use in ectothermic prey. However, how the predator's food requirement and the prey's necessity to avoid predation interact with their respective thermoregulatory strategies remains poorly understood. The recently developed 'thermal game model' predicts that in the face of imminent predation, prey should divide their time equally among a range of thermal patches. In contrast, predators should concentrate their hunting activities towards warmer patches. In this study, we test these predictions in a laboratory setup and an artificial environment that mimics more natural conditions. In both cases, we scored thermal patch use of newt larvae (prey) and free-ranging dragonfly nymphs (predators). Similar effects were seen in both settings. The newt larvae spent less time in the warm patch if dragonfly nymphs were present. The patch use of the dragonfly nymphs did not change as a function of prey availability, even when the nymphs were starved prior to the experiment. Our behavioral observations partially corroborate predictions of the thermal game model. In line with asymmetric fitness pay-offs in predator-prey interactions (the 'life-dinner' principle), the prey's thermal strategy is more sensitive to the presence of predators than vice versa.