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Data from: Keystone nonconsumptive effects within a diverse predator community

Cite this dataset

Meadows, Amanda J.; Owen, Jeb P.; Snyder, William E. (2018). Data from: Keystone nonconsumptive effects within a diverse predator community [Dataset]. Dryad.


The number of prey killed by diverse predator communities is determined by complementarity and interference among predators, and by traits of particular predator species. However, it is less clear how predators' nonconsumptive effects (NCEs) scale with increasing predator biodiversity. We examined NCEs exerted on Culex mosquitoes by a diverse community of aquatic predators. In the field, mosquito larvae co-occurred with differing densities and species compositions of mesopredator insects; top predator dragonfly naiads were present in roughly half of surveyed water bodies. We reproduced these predator community features in artificial ponds, exposing mosquito larvae to predator cues and measuring resulting effects on mosquito traits throughout development. Nonconsumptive effects of various combinations of mesopredator species reduced the survival of mosquito larvae to pupation, and reduced the size and longevity of adult mosquitoes that later emerged from the water. Intriguingly, adding single dragonfly naiads to ponds restored survivorship of larval mosquitoes to levels seen in the absence of predators, and further decreased adult mosquito longevity compared with mosquitoes emerging from mesopredator treatments. Behavioral observations revealed that mosquito larvae regularly deployed “diving” escape behavior in the presence of the mesopredators, but not when a dragonfly naiad was also present. This suggests that dragonflies may have relaxed NCEs of the mesopredators by causing mosquitoes to abandon energetically costly diving. Our study demonstrates that adding one individual of a functionally unique species can substantially alter community-wide NCEs of predators on prey. For pathogen vectors like mosquitoes, this could in turn influence disease dynamics.

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Inland Northwest