Predator-driven behavioural shifts in a common lizard shape resource-flow from marine to terrestrial ecosystems

Oriol Lapiedra, Nina Morales, Louie H. Yang, Darío Fernández-Bellon, Sozos N. Michaelides, Sean T. Giery, Jonah Piovia-Scott, Thomas W. Schoener, Jason J. Kolbe, Jonathan B. Losos


Foraging decisions shape the structure of food webs. Therefore, a behavioural shift in a single species can potentially modify resource-flow dynamics of entire ecosystems. To examine this, we conducted a field experiment to assess foraging niche dynamics of semi-arboreal brown anole lizards in the presence/absence of predatory ground-dwelling curly-tailed lizards in a replicated set of island ecosystems. One year after experimental translocation, brown anoles exposed to these predators had drastically increased perch height and reduced consumption of marine-derived food resources. This foraging niche shift altered marine-to-terrestrial resource-flow dynamics and persisted in the diets of the first-generation offspring. Furthermore, female lizards that displayed more risk-taking behaviours consumed more marine prey on islands with predators present. Our results show how predator-driven rapid behavioural shifts can alter food-web connectivity between oceanic and terrestrial ecosystems and underscore the importance of studying behaviour-mediated niche shifts to understand ecosystem functioning in rapidly changing environments.

Ecology Letters