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      What determines prey selection in owls? Roles of prey traits, prey class, environmental variables, and taxonomic specialization

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      1 , , 1
      Ecology and Evolution
      John Wiley and Sons Inc.
      body size, Israel, owls, predator specialization, prey selection

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          Abstract

          Ecological theory suggests that prey size should increase with predator size, but this trend may be masked by other factors affecting prey selection, such as environmental constraints or specific prey preferences of predator species. Owls are an ideal case study for exploring how predator body size affects prey selection in the presence of other factors due to the ease of analyzing their diets from owl pellets and their widespread distributions, allowing interspecific comparisons between variable habitats. Here, we analyze various dimensions of prey resource selection among owls, including prey size, taxonomy (i.e., whether or not particular taxa are favored regardless of their size), and prey traits (movement type, social structure, activity pattern, and diet). We collected pellets of five sympatric owl species ( Athene noctua, Tyto alba, Asio otus, Strix aluco, and Bubo bubo) from 78 sites across the Mediterranean Levant. Prey intake was compared between sites, with various environmental variables and owl species as predictors of abundance. Despite significant environmental impacts on prey intake, some key patterns emerge among owl species studied. Owls select prey by predator body size: Larger owls tend to feed on wider ranges of prey sizes, leading to higher means. In addition, guild members show both specialization and generalism in terms of prey taxa, sometimes in contrast with the expectations of the predator–prey body size hypothesis. Our results suggest that while predator body size is an important factor in prey selection, taxon specialization by predator species also has considerable impact.

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          The Niche Exploitation Pattern of the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

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            Consumer-resource body-size relationships in natural food webs.

            It has been suggested that differences in body size between consumer and resource species may have important implications for interaction strengths, population dynamics, and eventually food web structure, function, and evolution. Still, the general distribution of consumer-'resource body-size ratios in real ecosystems, and whether they vary systematically among habitats or broad taxonomic groups, is poorly understood. Using a unique global database on consumer and resource body sizes, we show that the mean body-size ratios of aquatic herbivorous and detritivorous consumers are several orders of magnitude larger than those of carnivorous predators. Carnivorous predator-prey body-size ratios vary across different habitats and predator and prey types (invertebrates, ectotherm, and endotherm vertebrates). Predator-prey body-size ratios are on average significantly higher (1) in freshwater habitats than in marine or terrestrial habitats, (2) for vertebrate than for invertebrate predators, and (3) for invertebrate than for ectotherm vertebrate prey. If recent studies that relate body-size ratios to interaction strengths are general, our results suggest that mean consumer-resource interaction strengths may vary systematically across different habitat categories and consumer types.
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              The Guild Concept and the Structure of Ecological Communities

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                orrcomay@post.tau.ac.il
                Journal
                Ecol Evol
                Ecol Evol
                10.1002/(ISSN)2045-7758
                ECE3
                Ecology and Evolution
                John Wiley and Sons Inc. (Hoboken )
                2045-7758
                22 February 2018
                March 2018
                : 8
                : 6 ( doiID: 10.1002/ece3.2018.8.issue-6 )
                : 3382-3392
                Affiliations
                [ 1 ] Department of Zoology and the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History Tel Aviv University Tel Aviv Israel
                Author notes
                [*] [* ] Correspondence

                Orr Comay, School of Zoology and the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.

                Email: orrcomay@ 123456post.tau.ac.il

                Article
                ECE33899
                10.1002/ece3.3899
                5869362
                80110098-c7c6-4bf3-9f4e-771b39e31c7c
                © 2018 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

                This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Page count
                Figures: 5, Tables: 4, Pages: 11, Words: 8670
                Product
                Categories
                Original Research
                Original Research
                Custom metadata
                2.0
                ece33899
                March 2018
                Converter:WILEY_ML3GV2_TO_NLMPMC version:version=5.3.3 mode:remove_FC converted:27.03.2018

                Evolutionary Biology
                body size,israel,owls,predator specialization,prey selection
                Evolutionary Biology
                body size, israel, owls, predator specialization, prey selection

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