Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Uiterwaal, S. F. and J. P. DeLong. 2020. Functional responses are maximized at intermediate temperatures. Ecology 101(4):e02975.



© 2020 by the Ecological Society of America. Used by permission.


Functional responses describe how consumer foraging rates change with resource density. Despite extensive research looking at the factors underlying foraging interactions, there remains ongoing controversy about how temperature and body size control the functional response parameters space clearance (or attack) rate and handling time. Here, we investigate the effects of temperature, consumer mass, and resource mass using the largest compilation of functional responses yet assembled. This compilation contains 2,083 functional response curves covering a wide range of foragers and prey types, environmental conditions, and habitats. After accounting for experimental arena size, dimensionality of the foraging interaction, and consumer taxon, we find that both space clearance rate and handling time are optimized at intermediate temperatures (a unimodal rather than monotonic response), suggesting that the response to global climate change depends on the location of the consumer’s current temperature relative to the optimum. We further confirm that functional responses are higher and steeper for large consumers and small resources, and models using consumer and resource masses separately outperformed models using consumer:resource mass ratios, suggesting that consumer and resource body mass act independently to set interaction strengths. Lastly, we show that the extent to which foraging is affected by temperature or mass depends on the taxonomic identity of the consumer and the dimensionality of the consumer–resource interaction. We thus argue that although overall body size and temperature effects can be identified, they are not universal, and therefore food web and community modeling approaches could be improved by considering taxonomic identity along with body size and unimodal temperature effects.

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