Document Detail

The fear of being eaten reduces energy transfer in a simple food chain.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  17249221     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Food chain length is an important property of ecosystems, but the mechanisms maintaining it remain elusive. Classical views suggest that energetic inefficiencies (the "energy-flow hypothesis") limit food chain length, but others have argued that better explanations reside in more complex scenarios that consider the stability of food webs or the combined effects of productivity and ecosystem size. We argue that abandonment of the energy-flow hypothesis is premature. For a simple tritrophic rocky intertidal food chain, we show that the efficiency of energy transfer is strongly influenced by predation risk and consumer density. Effects tied to predation risk were particularly strong, explaining 32% of the variation in growth efficiency (compared to 15% for density effects) and reducing it by 44-76%. Hence, the stress (fear of being eaten) that predators impose on prey may be instrumental in limiting energy transfer up the food chain and thus contribute to the shortening of food chains.
Geoffrey C Trussell; Patrick J Ewanchuk; Catherine M Matassa
Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Ecology     Volume:  87     ISSN:  0012-9658     ISO Abbreviation:  Ecology     Publication Date:  2006 Dec 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2007-01-25     Completed Date:  2007-02-23     Revised Date:  -    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  0043541     Medline TA:  Ecology     Country:  United States    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  2979-84     Citation Subset:  IM    
Marine Science Center, Northeastern University, 430 Nahant Road, Nahant, Massachusetts 01908, USA.
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MeSH Terms
Brachyura / physiology*
Energy Metabolism
Food Chain*
Predatory Behavior / physiology*
Snails / physiology*
Thoracica / physiology*

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