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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS - Vol. 445 - Feature article
Morphological constraints largely determine which prey can be ingested by planktonic predators such as Acartia tonsa (shown here with Rhodomonas sp., Oxyrrhis sp. and a nauplius). Photo: R. Schüller

Wirtz KW


Who is eating whom? Morphology and feeding type determine the size relation between planktonic predators and their ideal prey


The size ratio between predators and their optimal prey is a key variable for understanding plankton food webs. Wirtz analyzed an extensive predator–prey data set that covers all major zooplankton groups from the micro- to decimeter scale. His study shows that the ratio generally decreases with increasing predator size. This non-isometric scaling presumably results from structural components needed in larger organisms for intra-body transport. Size ratios are highly variable, due to variable degrees of grazing activity, i.e. different feeding modes. Identification of feeding mode patterns will help to explain food web structure.


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