Adaptive feeding across environmental gradients and its effect on population dynamics.
This paper analyzes a consumer's adaptive feeding response to environmental gradients. We consider a consumer-resource system where resources are distributed among many discrete resource patches. Each consumer exhibits a feeding morphology allowing it to remove resources from a patch down to some threshold density (or level) before having to seek resources elsewhere. Assuming consumers trade off resource extraction with patch access and predation, we show that for a given environment there often exists a single evolutionarily stable feeding threshold and it is an evolutionary attractor. We then investigate how the population dynamics of the resource and the consumer change as the environment changes. Two cases are considered: (i) all consumers exhibit a fixed feeding threshold that is adaptive for an intermediate environment; and (ii) the consumer population adapts and adopts the evolutionarily stable feeding threshold associated with the current environment. In less harsh environments (i.e., environments where consumers experience a lower risk of predation, or environments where resource patches are more abundant) the adaptive consumer population is predicted to evolve so that resources within a patch are depleted to lower densities. We show that the change in consumer density due to environmental change can be rather different depending on whether or not the population can adapt. In some situations we observe that when the consumer's environment becomes harsher, the consumer population may increase in density before a rapid crash to extinction. This result has implications for monitoring and managing a population.
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)