Individual interaction data are required in community ecology: a conceptual review of the predator–prey mass ratio and more

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Abstract

Community ecology is traditionally species-based and assumes that species comprise identical individuals. However, intraspecific variation is ubiquitous in nature because of ontogenetic growth and critical in food-we dynamics. To understand individual interaction-mediated food webs, researchers have recently focused on body size as the most fundamental biological aspect and assessed a parameter called the predator–prey mass ratio (PPMR). Herein, I review the conceptual development of the PPMR and suggest four major concerns regarding its measurement: (1) PPMR should be measured at the individual level because species-averaged values distort actual feeding relationships, (2) individual-level PPMR data on gape-unconstrained predators (e.g., terrestrial carnivores) are limited because previous studies have targeted gape-limited fish predators, (3) predators’ prey size selectivity (preferred PPRM) is conceptually different from dietary prey size (realized PPMR) and should be distinguished by incorporating environmental prey abundance information, and (4) determinants of preferred PPMR, rather than those of realized PPMR, should be identified to describe size-dependent predation. Future studies are encouraged to explore not only predation but also other interaction types (e.g., competition, mutualism, and herbivory) at the individual level. However, this is not likely to occur while ecological communities are still considered to be interspecific interaction networks. To resolve this situation and more comprehensively understand biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, I suggest that community ecology requires a paradigm shift in the unit of interaction from species to individuals, similar to evolutionary biology, which revolutionized the unit of selection, because interactions occur between individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-12
Number of pages8
JournalEcological Research
Volume32
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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