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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Predator hunting mode and host plant quality shape attack-abatement patterns of predation risk in an insect herbivore

Stephan, Jorg G.; Low, Matthew; Stenberg, Johan A.; Bjorkman, Christer


Group formation reduces individual predation risk when the proportion of prey taken per predator encounter declines faster than the increase in group encounter rate (a ack-abatement). Despite a ack-abatement being an important component of group formation ecology, several key aspects have not been empirically studied, that is, interactions with the hunting mode of the predator and how these relationships are modi ed by local habitat quality. In 79 cage trials, we examined individual egg predation risk in di erent-sized egg clutches from the blue willow beetle Phratora vulgatissima for two predators with di erent hunting modes (consumption of full group [Orthotylus marginalis] vs. part group [Anthocoris nemorum]). Because these predators also take nutrients from plant sap, we could examine how the quality of alternative food sources (high- vs. low-quality host plant sap) in uenced a ack-abatement pa erns in the presence of di erent hunting strategies. For the O. marginalis predator, individual egg predation risk was largely independent of group size. For A. nemorum, egg predation risk clearly declined with increasing group size. However, approximately one-third of the grouping bene t was lost to an increase in group detectability. There were clear di erences in a ack-abatement pa erns between plants with high- vs. low-quality sap. When O. marginalis was the predator, there was no clear change in a ack-abatement in relation to host plant quality. However, for A. nemorum there was a clear reduction in overall predation risk and a stronger a ack-abatement pa ern with increasing group size when plant sap quality increased. This implies that the relative bene ts of prey grouping behavior for any species might show diurnal or seasonal changes as other aspects of resource/habitat quality change for the focal predator. Modulation of a ack-abatement by bo om-up e ects such as plant-based food resources is yet to be incorporated into general theory, despite the ubiquity of omnivorous predators and with omnivory being important for shaping food webs, ecosystem functions, and in biological control. Thus, ongoing re nement of a ack- abatement theory by focusing on bo om-up vs. top-down processes could have signi cant impacts on many important contemporary elds of study.


aggregation; avoidance; clutch size; conspicuousness; dilution; group structure; habitat quality; omnivore; prey detection; searching strategy; selfish herd; tritrophic interaction

Published in

2016, volume: 7, number: 11, article number: e01541

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Stenberg, Johan A. (Stenberg, Johan A)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Protection Biology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

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