Planktonic prey size selection reveals an emergent keystone predator effect and niche partitioning
Date of Original Version
Marine herbivorous protists are often the dominant grazers of primary production. We developed a size-based model with flexible size-based grazing to encapsulate taxonomic and behavioral diversity. We examined individual and combined grazing impacts by three consumer sizes that span the size range of protistan grazers– 5, 50, and 200 μm—on a size-structured phytoplankton community. Prey size choice and dietary niche width varied with consumer size and with co-existence of other consumers. When all consumer sizes were present, distinct dietary niches emerged, with a range of consumer-prey size ratios spanning from 25:1 to 0.4:1, encompassing the canonical 10:1 often assumed. Grazing on all phytoplankton size classes maximized the phytoplankton size diversity through the keystone predator effect, resulting in a phytoplankton spectral slope of approximately -4, agreeing with field data. This mechanistic model suggests the observed size structure of phytoplankton communities is at least in part the result of selective consumer feeding.
Publication Title, e.g., Journal
Taniguchi, Darcy A., Michael J. Follows, and Susanne Menden-Deuer. "Planktonic prey size selection reveals an emergent keystone predator effect and niche partitioning." PLoS ONE 18, 2 February (2023). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0280884.