Bi-directional plasticity: Rotifer prey adjust spine length to different predator regimes

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Abstract

Numerous prey organisms, including many rotifers, exhibit inducible defensive plasticity, such as spines, in response to predators. Here, we test the hypothesis that prey modify their defence response to different predator sizes with a bi-directional adjustment in spine length. First, we show experimentally, that large-sized predators induce a reduction in prey spine length. Second, we conducted a complementary field monitoring study showing that the spine length of the prey rotifer Keratella cochlearis changed in opposite directions, in response to the shift in dominance between small-sized and large-sized predators. Third, in order to test the generality of our novel findings, we conducted a meta-analysis covering a wide array of rotifer prey taxa, strengthening the conclusions from our experimental and field studies. Hence, by combining evidence from experiments and studies in the field with a meta-analysis, we, for the first time, demonstrate that rotifer prey distinguish between predators and adjust their protective spine length accordingly, i.e. rapidly adjust spine length to escape either below or above the dominant predator's gape size window. In a broader perspective, our conclusions advance our knowledge on observed spatial and temporal variations in protective morphologies among prey organisms.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology
  • Ecology
Original languageEnglish
Article number1024
JournalScientific Reports
Volume7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec 1
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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