Document Type


Date of Original Version



Biological Sciences


The risk of consumption is a pervasive aspect of ecology and recent work has focused on synthesis of consumer–resource interactions (e.g., enemy–victim ecology). Despite this, theories pertaining to the timing and magnitude of defenses in animals and plants have largely developed independently. However, both animals and plants share the common dilemma of uncertainty of attack, can gather information from the environment to predict future attacks and alter their defensive investment accordingly. Here, we present a novel, unifying framework based on the way an organism’s ability to defend itself during an attack can shape their pre-attack investment in defense. This framework provides a useful perspective on the nature of information use and variation in defensive investment across the sequence of attack-related events, both within and among species. It predicts that organisms with greater proportional fitness loss if attacked will gather and respond to risk information earlier in the attack sequence, while those that have lower proportional fitness loss may wait until attack is underway. This framework offers a common platform to compare and discuss consumer effects and provides novel insights into the way risk information can propagate through populations, communities, and ecosystems.