Functional and numerical responses of predators

Where do vipers fit in the traditional paradigms?

Erika M. Nowak, Tad Theimer, Gordon W. Schuett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Snakes typically are not considered top carnivores, yet in many ecosystems they are a major predatory influence. A literature search confirmed that terrestrial ectotherms such as snakes are largely absent in most discussions of predator-prey dynamics. Here, we review classical functional and numerical responses of predator-prey relationships and then assess whether these traditional views are consistent with what we know of one group of snakes (true vipers and pitvipers: Viperidae). Specifically, we compare behavioural and physiological characteristics of vipers with those of more commonly studied mammalian (endothermic) predators and discuss how functional and numerical responses of vipers are fundamentally different. Overall, when compared to similar-sized endotherms, our analysis showed that vipers have: (i) lower functional responses owing primarily to longer prey handling times resulting from digestive limitations of consuming large prey and, for some adults, tolerance of fasting; (ii) stronger numerical responses resulting from higher efficiency of converting food into fitness currency (progeny), although this response often takes longer to be expressed; and (iii) reduced capacity for rapid numerical responses to short-term changes in prey abundance. Given these factors, the potential for viperids to regulate prey populations would most likely occur when prey populations are low. We provide suggestions for future research on key issues in predator-prey relationships of vipers, including their position within the classical paradigms of functional and numerical responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-620
Number of pages20
JournalBiological Reviews
Volume83
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2008

Fingerprint

Viperidae
Snakes
Ecosystems
predators
snakes
predator-prey relationships
Population
Ecosystem
Fasting
Food
carnivores
fasting
ecosystems

Keywords

  • Crotalus atrox
  • Ectotherms
  • Endotherms
  • Functional response
  • Numerical response
  • Predator-prey dynamics
  • Prey regulation
  • Reptiles
  • Viperidae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

Cite this

Functional and numerical responses of predators : Where do vipers fit in the traditional paradigms? / Nowak, Erika M.; Theimer, Tad; Schuett, Gordon W.

In: Biological Reviews, Vol. 83, No. 4, 11.2008, p. 601-620.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{c3de15983885496fa24875eabff7fa14,
title = "Functional and numerical responses of predators: Where do vipers fit in the traditional paradigms?",
abstract = "Snakes typically are not considered top carnivores, yet in many ecosystems they are a major predatory influence. A literature search confirmed that terrestrial ectotherms such as snakes are largely absent in most discussions of predator-prey dynamics. Here, we review classical functional and numerical responses of predator-prey relationships and then assess whether these traditional views are consistent with what we know of one group of snakes (true vipers and pitvipers: Viperidae). Specifically, we compare behavioural and physiological characteristics of vipers with those of more commonly studied mammalian (endothermic) predators and discuss how functional and numerical responses of vipers are fundamentally different. Overall, when compared to similar-sized endotherms, our analysis showed that vipers have: (i) lower functional responses owing primarily to longer prey handling times resulting from digestive limitations of consuming large prey and, for some adults, tolerance of fasting; (ii) stronger numerical responses resulting from higher efficiency of converting food into fitness currency (progeny), although this response often takes longer to be expressed; and (iii) reduced capacity for rapid numerical responses to short-term changes in prey abundance. Given these factors, the potential for viperids to regulate prey populations would most likely occur when prey populations are low. We provide suggestions for future research on key issues in predator-prey relationships of vipers, including their position within the classical paradigms of functional and numerical responses.",
keywords = "Crotalus atrox, Ectotherms, Endotherms, Functional response, Numerical response, Predator-prey dynamics, Prey regulation, Reptiles, Viperidae",
author = "Nowak, {Erika M.} and Tad Theimer and Schuett, {Gordon W.}",
year = "2008",
month = "11",
doi = "10.1111/j.1469-185X.2008.00056.x",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "83",
pages = "601--620",
journal = "Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society",
issn = "0006-3231",
publisher = "Cambridge University Press",
number = "4",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Functional and numerical responses of predators

T2 - Where do vipers fit in the traditional paradigms?

AU - Nowak, Erika M.

AU - Theimer, Tad

AU - Schuett, Gordon W.

PY - 2008/11

Y1 - 2008/11

N2 - Snakes typically are not considered top carnivores, yet in many ecosystems they are a major predatory influence. A literature search confirmed that terrestrial ectotherms such as snakes are largely absent in most discussions of predator-prey dynamics. Here, we review classical functional and numerical responses of predator-prey relationships and then assess whether these traditional views are consistent with what we know of one group of snakes (true vipers and pitvipers: Viperidae). Specifically, we compare behavioural and physiological characteristics of vipers with those of more commonly studied mammalian (endothermic) predators and discuss how functional and numerical responses of vipers are fundamentally different. Overall, when compared to similar-sized endotherms, our analysis showed that vipers have: (i) lower functional responses owing primarily to longer prey handling times resulting from digestive limitations of consuming large prey and, for some adults, tolerance of fasting; (ii) stronger numerical responses resulting from higher efficiency of converting food into fitness currency (progeny), although this response often takes longer to be expressed; and (iii) reduced capacity for rapid numerical responses to short-term changes in prey abundance. Given these factors, the potential for viperids to regulate prey populations would most likely occur when prey populations are low. We provide suggestions for future research on key issues in predator-prey relationships of vipers, including their position within the classical paradigms of functional and numerical responses.

AB - Snakes typically are not considered top carnivores, yet in many ecosystems they are a major predatory influence. A literature search confirmed that terrestrial ectotherms such as snakes are largely absent in most discussions of predator-prey dynamics. Here, we review classical functional and numerical responses of predator-prey relationships and then assess whether these traditional views are consistent with what we know of one group of snakes (true vipers and pitvipers: Viperidae). Specifically, we compare behavioural and physiological characteristics of vipers with those of more commonly studied mammalian (endothermic) predators and discuss how functional and numerical responses of vipers are fundamentally different. Overall, when compared to similar-sized endotherms, our analysis showed that vipers have: (i) lower functional responses owing primarily to longer prey handling times resulting from digestive limitations of consuming large prey and, for some adults, tolerance of fasting; (ii) stronger numerical responses resulting from higher efficiency of converting food into fitness currency (progeny), although this response often takes longer to be expressed; and (iii) reduced capacity for rapid numerical responses to short-term changes in prey abundance. Given these factors, the potential for viperids to regulate prey populations would most likely occur when prey populations are low. We provide suggestions for future research on key issues in predator-prey relationships of vipers, including their position within the classical paradigms of functional and numerical responses.

KW - Crotalus atrox

KW - Ectotherms

KW - Endotherms

KW - Functional response

KW - Numerical response

KW - Predator-prey dynamics

KW - Prey regulation

KW - Reptiles

KW - Viperidae

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=54849430960&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=54849430960&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1111/j.1469-185X.2008.00056.x

DO - 10.1111/j.1469-185X.2008.00056.x

M3 - Article

VL - 83

SP - 601

EP - 620

JO - Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society

JF - Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society

SN - 0006-3231

IS - 4

ER -