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Individual Trait Variation and Diversity in Food Webs

Publikationsart Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Originalbeitrag (peer-reviewed)
Publikationsdatum 2014
Projekt A theory for next-generation food web data
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Originalbeitrag (peer-reviewed)

Zeitschrift Advances in Ecological Research
Volume (Issue) 50
Seite(n) 207 - 241
Titel der Proceedings Advances in Ecological Research
DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-801374-8.00006-2


In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the ecological consequences of individual trait variation within populations. Given that individual variability arises from evolutionary dynamics, to fully understand eco-evolutionary feedback loops, we need to pay special attention to how standing trait variability affects ecological dynamics. There is mounting empirical evidence that intra-specific phenotypic variation can exceed species-level means, but theoretical models of multi-trophic species coexistence typically neglect individual-level trait variability. What is needed are multispecies datasets that are resolved at the individual level that can be used to discriminate among alternative models of resource selection and species coexistence in food webs. Here, using one the largest individual-based datasets of a food web compiled to date, along with an individual trait-based stochastic model that incorporates Approximate Bayesian computation methods, we document intra-population variation in the strength of prey selection by different classes or predator phenotypes which could potentially alter the diversity and coexistence patterns of food webs. In particular, we found that strongly connected individual predators preferentially consumed common prey, whereas weakly connected predators preferentially selected rare prey. Such patterns suggest that food web diversity may be governed by the distribution of predator connectivity and individual trait variation in prey selection. We discuss the consequences of intra- specific variation in prey selection to assess fitness differences among predator classes (or phenotypes) and track longer term food web patterns of coexistence accounting for several phenotypes within each prey and predator species.