Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Enhanced recruitment of larger predators in the presence of large prey


Takatsu, Kunio; Kishida, Osamu (2020), Enhanced recruitment of larger predators in the presence of large prey, Dryad, Dataset,


  1. Most carnivores undergo diet shift from smaller to larger prey items during ontogeny. The trophic relationship between a growing carnivore and larger prey is representative of a size-structured predator-prey interaction. The strength of this interaction is, in part, determined by the recruitment of individuals from smaller predatory size classes into larger predatory size classes. Therefore, it is interesting to investigate how larger prey alter the recruitment of smaller predator size classes into larger predator size classes, since this can affect their own future predation risk. 
  2. Past empirical studies have exclusively documented that large prey reduce predator recruitment by decreasing growth and/or survival of the smaller predators. In this study, we provide empirical evidence of the contrasting pattern: large prey enhance the recruitment of smaller predators into larger predators even though they increase cannibalism mortality of the smaller predators. We have done this here by studying the trophic interaction between predatory salamander larvae (Hynobius retardatus) and the frog tadpoles (Rana pirica) that represent their large prey. 
  3. In a field experiment in which salamander hatchlings were exposed to the presence or absence of large frog tadpoles, we found that more giant salamanders emerged in the presence of frog tadpoles than in their absence. Re-assignment of frog tadpoles (to both treatments) in the subsequent experimental period showed that the enhanced emergence of giant salamanders in the presence of frog tadpoles leads to the intensification of salamander predation on the frog tadpoles. 
  4. In an additional laboratory experiment, to better understand the underlying mechanisms, we manipulated both the presence of frog tadpoles and the occurrence of cannibalism between salamander hatchlings. This experiment revealed that frog tadpoles intensify the cannibalism of salamander larvae during their hatchling stage, thus allowing more salamander larvae to become large-sized predators.
  5. Our results suggest that frog tadpoles can inadvertently intensify their own future predation risk by intensifying cannibalistic interactions among predatory salamander hatchlings, thereby enhancing the degree of predator recruitment to a larger size class. Hence, large prey can enhance the recruitment of individuals from small predator size classes into larger predator size classes.