Habitat Complexity Alters Predator-Prey Interactions in a Shallow Water Ecosystem

Pierre William Froneman, Ross Noel Cuthbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Habitat complexity can profoundly influence interactions between predators and their prey due to changes to foraging efficiencies. In aquatic systems, habitat alterations can alter pursuit times and swimming behaviours of predator–prey participants, which in turn could mediate the strength of their interactions and, thus, population dynamics. The lower reaches of estuarine ecosystems are typically characterised by extensive beds of submerged macrophytes that might influence the trophic dynamics between pelagic predators and their prey. Here, we investigate the influence of increasing habitat complexity on the consumption of the calanoid copepod, Paracartia longipatella, by adult male and female mysid, Mesopodopsis wooldridgei, by means of a comparative functional response approach. Using structures that resembled aquatic vegetation, we quantified and compared feeding rates, attack rates, and handling times across the habitat gradient, and we questioned whether responses to habitat complexity are different between sexes. Feeding rates related significantly negatively to increasing habitat complexity for both males and females, with Type II functional responses consistently displayed. Functional response differed significantly across habitat complexities, with feeding rates at low and intermediate prey densities significantly greater in the absence of habitat compared to more complex structures for both predator sexes. Results of the current study demonstrate that increased habitat complexity mediates outcomes of interactions between M. wooldridgei and the calanoid copepod, P. longipatella across predator sexes, and possibly for other predators and prey in shallow waters. Owing to spatiotemporal differences in habitat structure within shallow waters, the strength of interactions in this predator–prey system likely differs in areas where they co-exist.
Original languageEnglish
Article number431
Issue number6
Early online date27 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


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