The ecological consequences of environmentally induced phenotypic changes.
Population dynamics and species persistence are often mediated by species traits. Yet many important traits, like body size, can be set by resource availability and predation risk. Environmentally induced changes in resource levels or predation risk may thus have downstream ecological consequences. Here, we assess whether quantity and type of resources affect the phenotype, the population dynamics, and the susceptibility to predation of a mixotrophic protist through experiments and a model. We show that cell shape, but not size, changes with resource levels and type, and is linked to carrying capacity, thus affecting population dynamics. Also, these changes lead to differential susceptibility to predation, with direct consequences for predator-prey dynamics. We describe important links between environmental changes, traits, population dynamics and ecological interactions, that underscore the need to further understand how trait-mediated interactions may respond to environmental shifts in resource levels in an increasingly changing world.
Gibert, JP; Allen, RL; Hruska, RJ; DeLong, JP
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