An Emerging Infectious Disease Triggering Large-Scale Hyperpredation
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Public Library of Science (PLOS)
PartridgesPopulation dynamicsPopulation sizePredationPredator-prey dynamicsRabbitsSpainTrophic interactions
Moleón, M.; Almaraz, P.; Sánchez-Zapata, J.A. An Emerging Infectious Disease Triggering Large-Scale Hyperpredation. Plos One, 3(6): e2307 (2008). [http://hdl.handle.net/10481/31130]
SponsorshipMM and JASZ were partially supported by a project of the Spanish Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia (reference CGL-2006-10689/BOS).
Hyperpredation refers to an enhanced predation pressure on a secondary prey due to either an increase in the abundance of a predator population or a sudden drop in the abundance of the main prey. This scarcely documented mechanism has been previously studied in scenarios in which the introduction of a feral prey caused overexploitation of native prey. Here we provide evidence of a previously unreported link between Emergent Infectious Diseases (EIDs) and hyperpredation on a predator-prey community. We show how a viral outbreak caused the population collapse of a host prey at a large spatial scale, which subsequently promoted higher-than-normal predation intensity on a second prey from shared predators. Thus, the disease left a population dynamic fingerprint both in the primary host prey, through direct mortality from the disease, and indirectly in the secondary prey, through hyperpredation. This resulted in synchronized prey population dynamics at a large spatio-temporal scale. We therefore provide evidence for a novel mechanism by which EIDs can disrupt a predator-prey interaction from the individual behavior to the population dynamics. This mechanism can pose a further threat to biodiversity through the human-aided disruption of ecological interactions at large spatial and temporal scales.