Changes in predator diversity via extinction and invasion are increasingly widespread and can have important ecological and socio-economic consequences. Anticipating and managing these consequences requires understanding how predators shape ecological communities. Previous predator biodiversity research has focused on post-colonization processes. However, predators can also shape communities by altering patterns of prey habitat selection during colonization. The sensitivity of this non-consumptive top down mechanism to changes in predator diversity is largely unexamined. To address this gap, we examined patterns of dipteran oviposition habitat selection in experimental aquatic habitats in response to varied predator species richness while holding predator abundance constant. Caged predators were used in order to disentangle behavioural oviposition responses to predator cues from potential post-oviposition consumption of eggs and larvae. We hypothesized that because increases in predator richness often result in greater prey mortality than would be predicted from independent effects of predators, prey should avoid predator-rich habitats during colonization. Consistent with this hypothesis, predator-rich habitats received 48% fewer dipteran eggs than predicted, including 60% fewer mosquito eggs and 38% fewer midge eggs. Our findings highlight the potentially important links between predator biodiversity, prey habitat selection and the ecosystem service of pest regulation.
- Received July 11, 2016.
- Accepted December 2, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.