Document Type

Article

Subject Area(s)

Life Sciences, Biology, Marine Biology

Abstract

Trait-mediated indirect interactions (TMII) play an important role in structuring natural communities, and numerous studies have experimentally demonstrated their presence in a variety of systems. However, these studies have largely examined the presence or absence of traits that are responsible for these interactions, without considering natural variation between individuals in the extent to which these traits are manifested. We used a well-documented TMII to investigate the importance of individual behavior type for determining the strength of the TMII. The toadfish Opsanus tau has an indirect positive influence on bivalve survival because the mud crab Panopeus herbstii, a consumer of bivalves, reduces foraging effort in the presence of toadfish. We quantified variation in the strength of persistent individual mud crab responses to toadfish and resulting variation in the strength of TMII. We demonstrate that the strength of this TMII is strongly influenced by mud crab size and behavior type, strengthening with the intensity of response of individual mud crabs to toadfish predator cues. Further, we demonstrate that the spatial distribution within intertidal oyster reefs of crabs with different behavior types is not random; mud crabs inhabiting subtidal areas, where predator cues are more persistent, are significantly less responsive to toadfish cues than mud crabs from intertidal areas. This spatial behavioral structure should lead to spatial variation in the strength of TMII. Given the widespread importance of TMII and the broad occurrence of individual personality or behavior types across numerous taxa, these results should be generally applicable. The distribution of behavior types within a population may therefore be a useful metric for improving our ability to predict the strength of TMII.

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