Facing multiple predators - phenotypic integration in multiple antipredator traits
Start date: May 1, 2009,
End date: Apr 30, 2011
Phenotypic plasticity, the flexibility of organisms to adjust their phenotypes to changing environments, remains an exciting research area for scientist studying developmental biology, ecology and evolution. A recently emerging area of studying phenotypic plasticity is how prey integrate their response of suites of phenotypic traits across multiple environments. Because predation is a strong selective agent biasing the distribution, abundance and evolution of species, predator induced phenotypic plasticity has been highlighted by multitudes of publications over the last decades. However, our knowledge about trait integration in prey across multiple predator environments is still extremely narrow. In nature, species face multiple predators both in space and time and apply suites of different antipredator traits to repel predators. Consequently, achieving the integration of suites of different antipredator traits among multiple predator environments must be a procedure of balancing multiple costs and benefits. Here, I propose to examine the integration of behavioural, morphological and life history antipredator traits across multiple predator threats in the three model daphnid species (water fleas) Daphnia longispina, D. magna and D. pulex. This involves studying prey trait integration within and between predator regimes, under multiple predator regimes and under multiple but sequential predator regimes. In controlled laboratory experiments using several clones of all three species, I will investigate trade-offs among defensive strategies in prey facing multiple predators and the interplay of phenotypic and genotypic integration. Results of this project will provide important insights how prey organisms deal with multiple predator environments and integrate multiple defences to build a complex organism.
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