Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Predator-Prey Interactions Are Key 'Conductors' Of Nature's Synchronicity

Date:
July 23, 2009
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Predator-prey interactions are the "conductors" of synchronicity in living organisms, according to new research.

Canadian lynx hunting.
Credit: iStockphoto/John Pitcher

Synchronicity in nature is seen in beating hearts, the flashing of fireflies' lights, the ebb and flow of infectious disease—and the simultaneous rise and fall of populations across vast reaches of space. While scientists have identified some factors that account for this melodic phenomenon, they have yet to sort out the relative contribution each plays in this finely tuned orchestra.

Now researchers at Yale University and the University of Calgary report in the July 22 issue of Nature's advanced online publication that predator-prey interactions are the "conductors" of synchronicity in living organisms.

"Change these interactions and you can suffer disastrous consequences to these systems," said David Vasseur, co-author of the paper and assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale.

Vasseur and Jeremy Fox, professor of biological sciences at Calgary, set out to find a way to tease out which factors are most important in creating spatial synchronicity. The close relationship in the rise and fall of populations, for instance, has been well documented in Canadian lynx and snowshoe hare populations. Changes in the abundance of lynx and hare measured at one location are closely mimicked over the entire continent.

Researchers have identified three main causes of synchronicity – the simultaneous rise and fall of populations in different locations. For example, individual snowshoe hares or lynx living in isolated populations can move into other isolated populations. This factor—called dispersal—can link the rise and fall of populations.

The second factor is called the Moran effect, which stipulates that isolated groups of animals experiencing similar environmental fluctuations—such as droughts—will tend to rise and fall in unison.

The third factor is interactions of species—such as the predator-prey relationship.

To test which of these factors is most important, Vasseur and Fox devised a model coupled to a series of experiments that tracked numbers of freshwater microorganisms stored in bottles. They swapped organisms between bottles (dispersal), grew bottles in identical temperatures (the Moran effect), and introduced a predator that eats the microorganism. They tested all combinations of these factors. For instance, they dispersed organisms among bottles with identical temperatures in one treatment and kept organisms in identical temperatures with no dispersal in another. They found a consistent synchronicity in populations in response to temperature change. However, swapping organisms created synchronicity only when predators were present. Without the predators, populations didn't synchronize when individual organisms were exchanged.

"Predators fundamentally change the way that their prey vary through time, creating a cyclic pattern that is quickly synchronized across many locations with only small amounts of dispersal," Vasseur said. "The loss of these cycles, either through species extinctions or global change, may have drastic consequences for the stability of ecosystems and the persistence of species."

The presence of predator creates a cyclic pattern nearly identical to that found in other examples of synchrony in nature. "This synchrony is achieved in the same manner as many other naturally synchronizing phenomena," Fox said. "Cyclic systems, from flashing fireflies to lynx and hares, are like kids bouncing up and down on a trampoline. Adding predators is like making them hold hands, so they all have to bounce together."

Funding for this study was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Alberta Ingenuity Fund.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Predator-Prey Interactions Are Key 'Conductors' Of Nature's Synchronicity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090722142830.htm>.
Yale University. (2009, July 23). Predator-Prey Interactions Are Key 'Conductors' Of Nature's Synchronicity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090722142830.htm
Yale University. "Predator-Prey Interactions Are Key 'Conductors' Of Nature's Synchronicity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090722142830.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) — A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — New research has shown that the Spinosaurus, the largest carnivorous dinosaur, might have been just as well suited for life in the water as on land. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins