Feb 23, 2012

Toward a predictive theory of risk effects: hypotheses for prey attributes and compensatory mortality

Scott Creel


Risk effects, or the costs of antipredator behavior, can comprise a large proportion of the total effect of predators on their prey. While empirical studies are accumulating to demonstrate the importance of risk effects, there is no general theory that predicts the relative importance of risk effects and direct predation. Working toward this general theory, it has been shown that functional traits of predators (e.g., hunting modes) help to predict the importance of risk effects for ecosystem function. Here, I note that attributes of the predator, the prey, and the environment are all important in determining the strength of antipredator responses, and I develop hypotheses for the ways that prey functional traits might influence the magnitude of risk effects. In particular, I consider the following attributes of prey: group size and dilution of direct predation risk, the degree of foraging specialization, body mass, and the degree to which direct predation is additive vs. compensatory. Strong tests of these hypotheses will require continued development of methods to identify and quantify the fitness costs of antipredator responses in wild populations.

  • References17
  • Citations18


Mentioned in this Paper

Behavior, Animal
Harassment, Non-Sexual
Decline, Mortality
Dilution Technique
PYURF gene
Biological Evolution
EAF2 gene

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