Effect of Lizards on Spider Populations: Manipulative Reconstruction of a Natural Experiment

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Science  22 May 1987:
Vol. 236, Issue 4804, pp. 949-952
DOI: 10.1126/science.236.4804.949


Which species affect one another, how intensely, and the mechanisms of those effects are crucial data for understanding how ecological communities work. Tropical islands without lizards, the major top predators, have about ten times as dense web spider populations as those with lizards; processes responsible for this effect were experimentally simulated by removing lizards from randomly selected mainland plots. Spider densities in removal plots averaged 2.5 times as high as controls. Spider survival, prey abundance, and prey consumption were all negatively affected by lizards. Contrary to most studies, predator removal caused an increase in the number of spider species.