Data from: Sacrificial males: the potential role of copulation and predation in contributing to copepod sex-skewed ratios
Wasserman, Ryan J. et al. (2018), Data from: Sacrificial males: the potential role of copulation and predation in contributing to copepod sex-skewed ratios, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.ff94h
Predation is thought to play a selective role in the emergence of behavioural traits in prey. Differences in behaviour between prey demographics may, therefore, be driven by predation with select components of the population being less vulnerable to predators. While under controlled conditions prey demography has been shown to have consequences for predation success, investigations linking these implications to natural prey population demographics are scarce. Here we assess predator-prey dynamics between notonectid predators (backswimmers) and Lovenula raynerae (Copepoda), key faunal groups in temperate ephemeral pond ecosystems. Using a combination of field and experimental approaches we test for the development and mechanism of predation-induced sex-skewed ratios. A natural population of L. raynerae was tracked over time in relation to their predator (notonectid) and prey (Cladocera) numbers. In the laboratory, L. raynerae sex ratios were also assessed over time but in the absence of predation pressure. Predation success and prey performance experiments evaluating differences between L. raynerae male, female, gravid female and copulating pairs exposed to notonectid predation were then examined. Under natural conditions, a female dominated copepod population developed over time and was correlated to predation pressure, while under predator-free conditions non sex-skewed prey population demographics persisted. Predator-prey laboratory trials showed no difference in vulnerability and escape performance for male, female and gravid female copepods, but pairs in copula were significantly more vulnerable to predation. This vulnerability was not shared by both sexes, with only female copepods ultimately escaping from successful predation on a mating pair. These results suggest that contact periods during copula may contribute to the development of sex-skewed copepod ratios over time in ecosystems dominated by hexapod predators. This is discussed within the context of vertebrate and invertebrate predation and how these dissimilar types of predation are likely to have acted as selective pressures for copepod mating systems.