The mechanics of predator-prey interactions: first principles of physics predict predator-prey size ratios [article]

Sebastien M J Portalier, Gregor F Fussmann, Michel Loreau, Mehdi Cherif
2018 bioRxiv   pre-print
Robust predictions of predator-prey interactions are fundamental for the understanding of food webs, their structure, dynamics, resistance to species loss and invasions and role in ecosystem functioning. Most current food web models are empirically based. Thus, they are sensitive to the quality of the data, and ineffective in predicting non-described and disturbed food webs. There is a need for mechanistic models that predict the occurrence of a predator-prey interaction based on the traits of
more » ... rganisms and the properties of their environment. Here, we present such a model that focuses on the predation act itself. We built a Newtonian, mechanical model for the processes of searching, capture and handling of a prey item by a predator. Associated with general metabolic laws, we predict the net energy gain from predation for pairs of predator and prey species depending on their body sizes. Predicted interactions match well with data from the most extensive predator-prey database, and overall model accuracy is greater than the niche model. Our model shows that it is possible to accurately predict the structure of food webs using only a few ecomechanical traits. It underlines the importance of physical constraints in structuring food webs.
doi:10.1101/313239 fatcat:inrprnoca5fbraycsuubacwbwi