Biomass encounter rates limit the size scaling of feeding interactions

Daniel Barrios-O’Neill*, Ruth Kelly, Mark C. Emmerson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


The rate that consumers encounter resources in space necessarily limits the strength of feeding interactions that shape ecosystems. To explore the link between encounters and feeding, we first compiled the largest available dataset of interactions in the marine benthos by extracting data from published studies and generating new data. These data indicate that the size-scaling of feeding interactions varies among consumer groups using different strategies (passive or active) to encounter different resource types (mobile or static), with filter feeders exhibiting the weakest feeding interactions. Next, we used these data to develop an agent-based model of resource biomass encounter rates, underpinned by consumer encounter strategy and resource biomass density. Our model demonstrates that passive strategies for encountering small, dispersed resources limits biomass encounter rates, necessarily limiting the strength of feeding interactions. Our model is based on generalisable assumptions, providing a framework to assess encounter-based drivers of consumption and coexistence across systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1870-1878
Number of pages9
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number11
Early online date21 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Agent-based modelling
  • body size
  • consumer–resource interactions
  • feeding rates
  • functional response
  • marine benthos

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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