Interactions between behavioral and life-history trade-offs in the evolution of integrated predator-defense plasticity

Clayton E. Cressler, Aaron A. King, Earl E. Werner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Inducible defense, which is phenotypic plasticity in traits that affect predation risk, is taxonomically widespread and has been shown to have important ecological consequences. However, it remains unclear what factors promote the evolution of qualitatively different defense strategies and when evolution should favor strategies that involve modification of multiple traits. Previous theory suggests that individual-level trade-offs play a key role in defense evolution, but most of this work has assumed that trade-offs are independent. Here we show that the shape of the behavioral trade-off between foraging gain and predation risk determines the interaction between this trade-off and the life-history trade-off between growth and reproduction. The interaction between these fundamental trade-offs determines the optimal investment into behavioral and life-history defenses. Highly nonlinear foraging-predation risk trade-offs favor the evolution of behavioral defenses, while linear trade-offs favor life-history defenses. Between these extremes, integrated defense responses are optimal, with defense expression strongly depending on ontogeny. We suggest that these predictions may be general across qualitatively different defenses. Our results have important implications for theory on the ecological effects of inducible defense, which has not considered how qualitatively different defenses might alter ecological interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-288
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Evolutionary computation
  • Foraging-predation risk trade-off
  • Inducible defense
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Predator-prey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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