Reciprocal behavioral plasticity and behavioral types during predator-prey interactions

Katie E. McGhee, Lauren M. Pintor, Alison M. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How predators and prey interact has important consequences for population dynamics and community stability. Here we explored how predator-prey interactions are simultaneously affected by reciprocal behavioral plasticity (i.e., plasticity in prey defenses countered by plasticity in predator offenses and vice versa) and consistent individual behavioral variation (i.e., behavioral types) within both predator and prey populations. We assessed the behavior of a predator species (northern pike) and a prey species (three-spined stickleback) during one-on-one encounters. We also measured additional behavioral and morphological traits in each species. Using structural equation modeling, we found that reciprocal behavioral plasticity as well as predator and prey behavioral types influenced how individuals behaved during an interaction. Thus, the progression and ultimate outcome of predator-prey interactions depend on both the dynamic behavioral feedback occurring during the encounter and the underlying behavioral type of each participant.We also examined whether predator behavioral type is underlain by differences in metabolism and organ size. We provide some of the first evidence that behavioral type is related to resting metabolic rate and size of a sensory organ (the eyes). Understanding the extent to which reciprocal behavioral plasticity and intraspecific behavioral variation influence the outcome of species interactions could provide insight into the maintenance of behavioral variation as well as community dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)704-717
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Antipredator behavior
  • Metabolic rate
  • Northern pike
  • Pace-of-life syndrome
  • Structural equation modeling
  • Three-spined stickleback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Reciprocal behavioral plasticity and behavioral types during predator-prey interactions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this