Intraspecific variation in a predator changes intertidal community through effects on a foundation species
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Intraspecific variation in a predator changes intertidal community through effects on a foundation species

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  • Journal Title:
    Ecology and Evolution
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    Intraspecific variation is an important form of biodiversity that can alter community and ecosystem properties. Recent work demonstrates the community effects of intraspecific variation in predators via altering prey communities and in foundation species via shaping habitat attributes. However, tests of the community effects of intraspecific trait variation in predators acting on foundation species are lacking despite the fact that consumption of foundation species can have strong community effects by shaping habitat structure. Here, we tested the hypothesis that intraspecific foraging differences among populations of mussel‐drilling dogwhelk predators (Nucella) differentially alter intertidal communities through effects on foundational mussels. We conducted a 9‐month field experiment where we exposed intertidal mussel bed communities to predation from three Nucella populations that exhibit differences in size‐selectivity and consumption time for mussel prey. At the end of the experiment, we measured mussel bed structure, species diversity, and community composition. While exposure to Nucella originating from different populations did not significantly alter overall community diversity, we found that differences in Nucella mussel selectivity significantly altered foundational mussel bed structure, which in turn altered the biomass of shore crabs and periwinkle snails. Our study extends the emerging paradigm of the ecological importance of intraspecific variation to include the effects of intraspecific variation on predators of foundation species.
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    Ecology and Evolution, 13(6)
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    CC BY
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