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Higher predation risk for insect prey at low latitudes and elevations

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Science  19 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6339, pp. 742-744
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaj1631

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Risky in the tropics

It is well known that diversity increases toward the tropics. Whether this increase translates into differences in interaction rates among species, however, remains unclear. To simplify the problem, Roslin et al. tested for predation rates by using a single approach involving model caterpillars across six continents. Predator attack rates were higher toward the equator, but only for arthropod predators.

Science, this issue p. 742

Abstract

Biotic interactions underlie ecosystem structure and function, but predicting interaction outcomes is difficult. We tested the hypothesis that biotic interaction strength increases toward the equator, using a global experiment with model caterpillars to measure predation risk. Across an 11,660-kilometer latitudinal gradient spanning six continents, we found increasing predation toward the equator, with a parallel pattern of increasing predation toward lower elevations. Patterns across both latitude and elevation were driven by arthropod predators, with no systematic trend in attack rates by birds or mammals. These matching gradients at global and regional scales suggest consistent drivers of biotic interaction strength, a finding that needs to be integrated into general theories of herbivory, community organization, and life-history evolution.

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