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Gradients in predation risk in a tropical river system

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The importance of predation risk as a key driver of evolutionary change is exemplified by the Northern Range in Trinidad, where research on guppies living in multiple parallel streams has provided invaluable insights into the process of evolution by natural selection. Although Trinidadian guppies are now a textbook example of evolution in action, studies have generally categorized predation as a dichotomous variable, representing high or low risk. Yet, ecologists appreciate that community structure and the attendant predation risk vary substantially over space and time. Here, we use data from a longitudinal study of fish assemblages at 16 different sites in the Northern Range to quantify temporal and spatial variation in predation risk. Specifically we ask: 1) Is there evidence for a gradient in predation risk? 2) Does the ranking of sites (by risk) change with the definition of the predator community (in terms of species composition and abundance currency), and 3) Are site rankings consistent over time? We find compelling evidence that sites lie along a continuum of risk. However, site rankings along this gradient depend on how predation is quantified in terms of the species considered to be predators and the abundance currency is used. Nonetheless, for a given categorization and currency, rankings are relatively consistent over time. Our study suggests that consideration of predation gradients will lead to a more nuanced understanding of the role of predation risk in behavioral and evolutionary ecology. It also emphasizes the need to justify and report the definition of predation risk being used.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-221
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Zoology
Issue number2
Early online date10 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018

    Research areas

  • Abundance currency, Gradients, Poecilia reticulata, Predation risk, Trinidad, Trinidadian guppy

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