How do new predators change an ecosystem? Watch the prey.

June 17, 2019

Rob Pringle led an international team of researchers to investigate how invading predators affect species diversity. A leading cause of extinction is the introduction of predators into an isolated system like an island or a lake. The destruction is usually blamed on the predator’s eating choices, but sometimes the key lies in the prey animals’ responses, according to Pringle and his colleagues. 

“You really can’t understand predator-prey interactions — or how predators will affect biodiversity and ecosystems — without understanding the behavior of the prey,” said Pringle. “The ways in which prey change their behavior to avoid getting eaten is a hard thing to predict, but without understanding that, you can’t predict anything else. Most theory in ecology simply assumes that predators eat prey, end of story. The real world is more complicated. But it’s not so complicated that we can’t get to the bottom of it.”

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