Sexual dimorphism in a top predator (Notophthalmus viridescens) drives aquatic prey community assembly

Denon Start, Stephen De Lisle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intraspecific variation can have important consequences for the structure and function of ecological communities, and serves to link community ecology to evolutionary processes. Differences between the sexes are an overwhelmingly common form of intraspecific variation, but its community-level consequences have never been experimentally investigated. Here, we manipulate the sex ratio of a sexually dimorphic predacious newt in aquatic mesocosms, then track their impact on prey communities. Female and male newts preferentially forage in the benthic and pelagic zones, respectively, causing corresponding reductions in prey abundances in those habitats. Sex ratio differences also explained a large proportion (33%) of differences in the composition of entire pond communities. Ultimately, we demonstrate the impact of known patterns of sexual dimorphism in a predator on its prey, uncovering overlooked links between evolutionary adaptation and the structure of contemporary communities. Given the extreme prevalence of sexual dimorphism, we argue that the independent evolution of the sexes will often have important consequences for ecological communities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRoyal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
Issue number1890
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Nov 7

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Evolutionary Biology

Free keywords

  • amphibian
  • aquatic
  • character displacement
  • intraspecific variation
  • sexual selection


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