The demographic and life-history costs of fear: Trait-mediated effects of threat of predation on Aedes triseriatus

Geoffrey D. Ower, Steven A. Juliano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Predators alter prey populations via direct lethality (density-mediated effects), but in many taxa, the indirect nonlethal threat of predation may be almost as strong an effect, altering phenotypically plastic traits such as prey morphology, behavior, and life history (trait-mediated effects). There are costs to antipredator defenses and the strength of prey responses to cues of predation likely depends on both the perceived level of risk and food availability. The goal of this study was to test the hypothesis that the costs of nonlethal trait-mediated interactions impacting larvae can have carryover effects that alter life-history traits, adult characteristics, and ultimately population dynamics. The effects of Toxorhynchites rutilus kairomones and chemical alarm cues on Aedes triseriatus were assessed in a two-level factorial design manipulating nutrient level (low or high) and chemical cues of predation (present or absent). Nonlethal chemical cues of predation significantly decreased female survivorship and significantly decreased female size. Females emerged as adults significantly earlier when exposed to predation cues when there was high nutrient availability. When raised in the low nutrient treatment and exposed to predator cues, adult females had 2.1 times the hazard of death compared to high nutrient-no predator cues. Females raised in the high nutrient and predator cue treatment blood fed sooner than did females from other combinations. Fear of predation can substantially alter prey life-history traits and behavior, which can cascade into dramatic population, community, and ecosystem effects. Exposure to predator cues significantly decreased the estimated cohort rate of increase, potentially altering the expected population density of the next generation.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3794-3806
Number of pages13
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • INHS
  • life-history traits
  • trade-offs
  • carryover effects
  • predation
  • trait-mediated effects
  • chemical cues

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology


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