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Trait-dependency of trophic interactions in zooplankton food webs


Vincent, Florian et al. (2020), Trait-dependency of trophic interactions in zooplankton food webs, Dryad, Dataset,


Anthropogenic change in the abundance or identity of dominant top predators may induce reorganizations in whole food webs. Predicting these reorganizations requires identifying the biological rules that govern trophic niches. However, we still lack a detailed understanding of the respective contributions of body size, behaviour (e.g., match between predator hunting mode and prey antipredator strategy), phylogeny and/or ontogeny in determining both the presence and strength of trophic interactions. Here, we address this question by measuring zooplankton numerical response to fish predators in lake enclosures. We compared the fit to zooplankton count data of models grouping zooplankters based either on (i) body sizes, (ii) antipredator behaviour, (iii) body size combined with antipredator behaviour, or on (iv) phylogeny combined with ontogeny (i.e., different life stages of copepods). Body size was a better predictor of zooplankton numerical response to fish than antipredator behaviour, but combining body size and behaviour provided even better predictions. Models based on phylogeny combined with ontogeny clearly outperformed those based on other zooplankton grouping rules, except when phylogeny was poorly resolved. Removing ontogenetic information plagued the predictive power of the highly-resolved (genus-level) phylogenetic grouping but not of medium-resolved or poorly-resolved phylogenetic grouping. Our results support the recent use of phylogeny as a superior surrogate for traits controlling trophic niches, and further highlight the added value of combining phylogeny with ontogenetic traits. Further improvements in our mechanistic understanding of how trophic networks are shaped are bound to uncovering the trophic traits captured by phylogeny and ontogeny, but that currently remain hidden to us.

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