Chapter Six – Individual Trait Variation and Diversity in Food Webs

Melian Penate, Carlos Javier; Baldó, Francisco; Matthews, Blake; Vilas, César; González-Ortegón, Enrique; Drake, Pilar; Williams, Richard J. (2014). Chapter Six – Individual Trait Variation and Diversity in Food Webs. In: Moya-Laraño, Jordi; Rowntree, Jennifer; Woodward, Guy (eds.) Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics. Advances in Ecological Research: Vol. 50 (pp. 207-241). Amsterdam: Elsevier 10.1016/B978-0-12-801374-8.00006-2

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In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the ecological consequences of individual trait variation within populations. Given that individual variability arises from evolutionary dynamics, to fully understand eco-evolutionary feedback loops, we need to pay special attention to how standing trait variability affects ecological dynamics. There is mounting empirical evidence that intra-specific phenotypic variation can exceed species-level means, but theoretical models of multi-trophic species coexistence typically neglect individual-level trait variability. What is needed are multispecies datasets that are resolved at the individual level that can be used to discriminate among alternative models of resource selection and species coexistence in food webs. Here, using one the largest individual-based datasets of a food web compiled to date, along with an individual trait-based stochastic model that incorporates Approximate Bayesian computation methods, we document intra-population variation in the strength of prey selection by different classes or predator phenotypes which could potentially alter the diversity and coexistence patterns of food webs. In particular, we found that strongly connected individual predators preferentially consumed common prey, whereas weakly connected predators preferentially selected rare prey. Such patterns suggest that food web diversity may be governed by the distribution of predator connectivity and individual trait variation in prey selection. We discuss the consequences of intra-specific variation in prey selection to assess fitness differences among predator classes (or phenotypes) and track longer term food web patterns of coexistence accounting for several phenotypes within each prey and predator species.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Aquatic Ecology

UniBE Contributor:

Melian Penate, Carlos Javier


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology






Advances in Ecological Research






Marcel Häsler

Date Deposited:

05 Sep 2014 16:18

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2015 09:57

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Food webs, Individual trait-based approach, Learning behaviour, Stochastic modelling, Individual connectivity, Resource abundance, Biodiversity theory, Strength of prey selection, Fast and slow prey finders, Approximate Bayesian computation


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