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1 July 2006 Natural History of Mass-action in Predator-prey Models: A Case Study from Wolf Spiders and Grasshoppers
Anthony Joern, Bradford J. Danner, J. David Logan, William Wolesensky
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Mass-action models of predator-prey interactions assume that predators encounter prey according to their relative densities as scaled by functional responses, although models seldom specify critical natural history and behavioral mechanisms that ensure that encounters actually occur. As a case study of this assumption, we assess the hypothesis that daily and seasonal activity and microhabitat use by wandering wolf spiders (Lycosidae: Schizocosa) searching for four common grasshopper species (Orthoptera: Acrididae) are coincident under natural conditions. There was great overlap in seasonal phenology and use of microhabitats between spiders and grasshoppers. Grasshoppers that were suitably sized (10–20 mm in length) as prey for spiders were relatively abundant from late spring through summer in this grassland. Three of the four common grasshopper species used microhabitat in a similar way, but differed from a fourth common species, Phoetaliotes nebrascensis. However, when they were active, spiders were about equally distributed between open microhabitats on the ground and up in the vegetation so that all grasshopper species were at risk. In response to temperature, spiders were active for only a portion of the day during which grasshoppers were also active so that the actual daily “window-of-opportunity” for capture each day was much smaller than expected. Spiders were more likely to be active during the early morning and evening, while grasshoppers were active during all daylight hours, most likely because of differences in thermal preferences. Schizocosa and their grasshopper prey are largely coincident in time and space except for overlap in daily activity which, presumably, reflects differences in thermal preferences. Consequently, overlap in daily time budgets that ensure actual encounter was reduced about 50%. The significance of this difference to the inclusion of simple mass-action dynamics in predator-prey models requires further consideration, but may be important.

Anthony Joern, Bradford J. Danner, J. David Logan, and William Wolesensky "Natural History of Mass-action in Predator-prey Models: A Case Study from Wolf Spiders and Grasshoppers," The American Midland Naturalist 156(1), 52-64, (1 July 2006).[52:NHOMIP]2.0.CO;2
Accepted: 1 November 2005; Published: 1 July 2006
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