Thermal asymmetries influence effects of warming on stage and size-dependent predator–prey interactions

Adam Pepi, Tracie Hayes and Kelsey Lyberger


Climate warming directly influences the developmental and feeding rates of organisms. Changes in these rates are likely to have consequences for species interactions, particularly for organisms affected by stage- or size-dependent predation. However, because of differences in species-specific responses to warming, predicting the impact of warming on predator and prey densities can be difficult. We present a general model of stage-dependent predation with temperature-dependent vital rates to explore the effects of warming when predator and prey have different thermal optima. We found that warming generally favored the interactor with the higher thermal optimum. Part of this effect occurred due to the stage-dependent nature of the interaction and part due to thermal asymmetries. Interestingly, below the predator and prey thermal optima, warming caused prey densities to decline, even as increasing temperature improved prey performance. We also parameterize our model using values from a well-studied system, Arctia virginalis and Formica lasioides, in which the predator has a warmer optimum. Overall, our results provide a general framework for understanding stage- and temperature-dependent predator–prey interactions and illustrate that the thermal niche of both predator and prey is important to consider when predicting the effects of climate warming.

Theoretical Ecology