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Experimental evolution of a microbial predator's ability to find prey

By Kristina L. Hillesland, Gregory J. Velicer and Richard E. Lenski


Foraging theory seeks to explain how the distribution and abundance of prey influence the evolution of predatory behaviour, including the allocation of effort to searching for prey and handling them after they are found. While experiments have shown that many predators alter their behaviour phenotypically within individual lifetimes, few have examined the actual evolution of predatory behaviour in light of this theory. Here, we test the effects of prey density on the evolution of a predator's searching and handling behaviours using a bacterial predator, Myxococcus xanthus. Sixteen predator populations evolved for almost a year on agar surfaces containing patches of Escherichia coli prey at low or high density. Improvements in searching rate were significantly greater in those predators that evolved at low prey density. Handling performance also improved in some predator populations, but prey density did not significantly affect the magnitude of these gains. As the predators evolved greater foraging proficiency, their capacity diminished to produce fruiting bodies that enable them to survive prolonged periods of starvation. More generally, these results demonstrate that predators evolve behaviours that reflect at least some of the opportunities and limitations imposed by the distribution and abundance of their prey

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: The Royal Society
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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