Stepping in Elton's footprints: a general scaling model for body masses and trophic levels across ecosystems

Jens Riede, Ulrich Brose, Bo Ebenman, Ute Jacob, Ross Thompson, C Townsend, Tomas Jonsson

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter

105 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Despite growing awareness of the significance of body-size and predator–prey body-mass ratios for the stability of ecological networks, our understanding of their distribution within ecosystems is incomplete. Here, we study the relationships between predator and prey size, body-mass ratios and predator trophic levels using body-mass estimates of 1313 predators (invertebrates, ectotherm and endotherm vertebrates) from 35 food-webs (marine, stream, lake and terrestrial). Across all ecosystem and predator types, except for streams (which appear to have a different size structure in their predator–prey interactions), we find that (1) geometric mean prey mass increases with predator mass with a power-law exponent greater than unity and (2) predator size increases with trophic level. Consistent with our theoretical derivations, we show that the quantitative nature of these relationships implies systematic decreases in predator–prey body-mass ratios with the trophic level of the predator. Thus, predators are, on an average, more similar in size to their prey at the top of food-webs than that closer to the base. These findings contradict the traditional Eltonian paradigm and have implications for our understanding of body-mass constraints on food-web topology, community dynamics and stability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-178
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Volume14
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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footprint
trophic level
body mass
predator
predators
ecosystems
ecosystem
food webs
food web
body size
prey size
trophic levels
community dynamics
size structure
topology
power law
vertebrate
invertebrate
invertebrates
vertebrates

Cite this

Riede, Jens ; Brose, Ulrich ; Ebenman, Bo ; Jacob, Ute ; Thompson, Ross ; Townsend, C ; Jonsson, Tomas. / Stepping in Elton's footprints: a general scaling model for body masses and trophic levels across ecosystems. In: Ecology Letters. 2011 ; Vol. 14. pp. 169-178.
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abstract = "Despite growing awareness of the significance of body-size and predator–prey body-mass ratios for the stability of ecological networks, our understanding of their distribution within ecosystems is incomplete. Here, we study the relationships between predator and prey size, body-mass ratios and predator trophic levels using body-mass estimates of 1313 predators (invertebrates, ectotherm and endotherm vertebrates) from 35 food-webs (marine, stream, lake and terrestrial). Across all ecosystem and predator types, except for streams (which appear to have a different size structure in their predator–prey interactions), we find that (1) geometric mean prey mass increases with predator mass with a power-law exponent greater than unity and (2) predator size increases with trophic level. Consistent with our theoretical derivations, we show that the quantitative nature of these relationships implies systematic decreases in predator–prey body-mass ratios with the trophic level of the predator. Thus, predators are, on an average, more similar in size to their prey at the top of food-webs than that closer to the base. These findings contradict the traditional Eltonian paradigm and have implications for our understanding of body-mass constraints on food-web topology, community dynamics and stability.",
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Stepping in Elton's footprints: a general scaling model for body masses and trophic levels across ecosystems. / Riede, Jens; Brose, Ulrich; Ebenman, Bo; Jacob, Ute; Thompson, Ross; Townsend, C; Jonsson, Tomas.

In: Ecology Letters, Vol. 14, 2011, p. 169-178.

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter

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AU - Riede, Jens

AU - Brose, Ulrich

AU - Ebenman, Bo

AU - Jacob, Ute

AU - Thompson, Ross

AU - Townsend, C

AU - Jonsson, Tomas

PY - 2011

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AB - Despite growing awareness of the significance of body-size and predator–prey body-mass ratios for the stability of ecological networks, our understanding of their distribution within ecosystems is incomplete. Here, we study the relationships between predator and prey size, body-mass ratios and predator trophic levels using body-mass estimates of 1313 predators (invertebrates, ectotherm and endotherm vertebrates) from 35 food-webs (marine, stream, lake and terrestrial). Across all ecosystem and predator types, except for streams (which appear to have a different size structure in their predator–prey interactions), we find that (1) geometric mean prey mass increases with predator mass with a power-law exponent greater than unity and (2) predator size increases with trophic level. Consistent with our theoretical derivations, we show that the quantitative nature of these relationships implies systematic decreases in predator–prey body-mass ratios with the trophic level of the predator. Thus, predators are, on an average, more similar in size to their prey at the top of food-webs than that closer to the base. These findings contradict the traditional Eltonian paradigm and have implications for our understanding of body-mass constraints on food-web topology, community dynamics and stability.

KW - Allometry

KW - body-size ratio

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KW - predation

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