Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Non-interactive multiple predator effects on tadpole survival

  • 300 Accesses

  • 11 Citations


Interactions among and within three species of predators were estimated in terms of their effects on prey survival using short-term predation experiments. The prey were tadpoles (Rana temporaria), and the predators were dragonfly larvae (Anax imperator), newts (Triturus alpestris), and backswimmers (Notonecta glauca). Mortality rate per predator imposed by Triturus and Notonecta did not decline with predator density, whereas the predation rate of Anax was strongly reduced when the number of predator individuals increased. Impacts of all three predators were not altered by the presence of other species in pairwise combinations. This system is therefore characterized by interference between individual dragonflies but relatively independent effects of predator species. These results were largely predictable based on the natural history of the predators and are encouraging for attempts to model communities as assemblages of interacting species.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. Billick I, Case T (1994) Higher order interactions in ecological communities: what are they and how can they be detected? Ecology 75:1530–1543

  2. Burnham PK, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and multimodel inference. Springer, New York

  3. Carey MP, Wahl DH (2010) Interactions of multiple predators with different foraging modes in an aquatic food web. Oecologia 162:443–452

  4. Casula P, Wilby A, Matthew MB (2006) Understanding biodiversity effects on prey in multi-enemy systems. Ecol Lett 9:995–1004

  5. Corbet PS (1957) The life-history of the emperor dragonfly Anax imperator Leach (Odonata, Aeshnidae). J Anim Ecol 26:1–69

  6. Folsom TC, Collins NC (1984) The diet and foraging behavior of the larval dragonfly Anax junius (Aeshnidae), with an assessment of the role of refuges and prey activity. Oikos 42:105–113

  7. Fox LR (1975) Factors influencing cannibalism, a mechanism of population limitation in predator Notonecta hoffmanni. Ecology 56:933–941

  8. Griffen BD (2006) Detecting emergent effects of multiple predator species. Oecologia 148:702–709

  9. Griffiths RA (1996) Newts and salamanders of Europe. Academic Press, London

  10. Ives AR, Cardinale BJ, Snyder WE (2005) A synthesis of subdisciplines: predator–prey interactions, and biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Ecol Lett 8:102–116

  11. Jolliffe PA (2000) The replacement series. J Ecol 88:371–385

  12. Levins R (1968) Evolution in changing environments. Princeton University Press, Princeton

  13. Lima S (2002) Putting predators back into behavioural predator–prey interactions. Trends Ecol Evol 17:70–75

  14. McPeek MA, Crowley PH (1987) The effects of density and relative size on the aggressive behaviour, movement and feeding of damselfly larvae (Odonata: Coenagrionidae). Anim Behav 35:1051–1061

  15. Schmitz OJ (2007) Predator diversity and trophic interactions. Ecology 88:2415–2426

  16. Siddon CE, Witman JD (2004) Behavioral indirect interactions: multiple predator effects and prey switching in the rocky subtidal. Ecology 85:2938–2945

  17. Sih A (1982) Foraging strategies and the avoidance of predation by an aquatic insect, Notonecta hoffmanni. Ecology 63:786–796

  18. Sih A, Crowley P, McPeek M, Petranka J, Strohmeier K (1985) Predation, competition, and prey communities: a review of field experiments. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 16:269–311

  19. Sih A, Englund G, Wooster D (1998) Emergent impacts of multiple predators on prey. Trends Ecol Evol 13:350–355

  20. Slobodkin LB (1955) Conditions for population equilibrium. Ecology 36:530–533

  21. Streams FA (1987) Foraging behavior in a notonectid assemblage. Am Midl Nat 117:353–361

  22. Van Buskirk J (1992) Competition, cannibalism, and size-class dominance in a dragonfly. Oikos 65:455–464

  23. Van Buskirk J (2005) Local and landscape influence on amphibian occurrence and abundance. Ecology 86:1936–1947

  24. Vance-Chalcraft HD, Soluk DA (2005) Multiple predator effects result in risk reduction for prey across multiple prey densities. Oecologia 144:472–480

  25. Vance-Chalcraft HD, Soluk DA, Ozbum N (2004) Is prey predation risk influenced more by increasing predator density or predator species richness in stream enclosures? Oecologia 139:117–122

  26. Vandermeer JH (1970) The community matrix and the number of species in a community. Am Nat 104:73–83

  27. Warfe DM, Barmuta LA (2004) Habitat structural complexity mediates the foraging success of multiple predator species. Oecologia 139:171–178

  28. Wilbur HM, Fauth JE (1990) Experimental aquatic food webs: interactions between two predators and two prey. Am Nat 135:176–204

  29. Woodcock BA, Heard MS (2011) Disentangling the effects of predator hunting mode and habitat domain on the top–down control of insect herbivores. J Anim Ecol 80:495–503

Download references


Many thanks to Ross Alford, Craig Osenberg, and Heinz-Ulrich Reyer for constructive comments on the manuscript, to Jasmin Winkler for help with the experiments, and to the Swiss National Science Foundation for financial support (31003A-113807).

Author information

Correspondence to Oscar Ramos.

Additional information

Communicated by Ross Alford.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ramos, O., Van Buskirk, J. Non-interactive multiple predator effects on tadpole survival. Oecologia 169, 535–539 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-011-2208-5

Download citation


  • Multiple predator species
  • Additive effects
  • Emergent effects
  • Density dependence