Khadempour, L., Rivas Quijano, L., and C.P. terHorst. 2022

Khadempour, L., L. Rivas-Quijano, and C.P. terHorst. 2022. Prey identity affects fitness of a generalist
consumer in a brown food web. Ecology & Evolution 12:e9207. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.9207

The use of ever-advancing sequencing technologies has revealed incredible biodiversity at the microbial scale, and yet we know little about the ecological interactions in these communities. For example, in the phytotelmic community found in the purple pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, ecologists typically consider the bacteria as a functionally homogenous group. In this food web, bacteria decompose detritus and are consumed by protozoa that are considered generalist consumers. Here, we tested whether a generalist consumer benefits from all bacteria equally. We isolated and identified 22 strains of bacteria, belonging to six genera, from S. purpurea plants. We grew the protozoa, Tetrahymena sp. with single isolates and strain mixtures of bacteria and measured Tetrahymena fitness. We found that different bacterial strains had different effects on protozoan fitness, both in isolation and in mixture. Our results demonstrate that not accounting for the composition of prey communities may affect the predicted outcome of predator–prey interactions.
bottom-up effects, phytotelmic, predator–prey dynamics, Sarracenia purpurea

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