Global patterns in predator–prey size relationships reveal size dependency of trophic transfer efficiency

Carolyn Barnes, David Maxwell, Daniel C. Reuman, Simon Jennings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

242 Citations (Scopus)


Predator-prey body size relationships influence food chain length, trophic structure, transfer efficiency, interaction strength, and the bioaccumulation of contaminants. Improved quantification of these relationships and their response to the environment is needed to parameterize food web models and describe food web structure and function. A compiled data set comprising 29 582 records of individual prey eaten at 21 locations by individual predators that spanned 10 orders of magnitude in mass and lived in marine environments ranging from the poles to the tropics was used to investigate the influence of predator size and environment on predator and prey size relationships. Linear mixed effects models demonstrated that predator-prey mass ratios (PPMR) increased with predator mass. The amount of the increase varied among locations and predator species and individuals but was not significantly influenced by temperature, latitude, depth, or primary production. Increases in PPMR with predator mass implied nonlinear relationships between log body mass and trophic level and reductions in transfer efficiency with increasing body size. The results suggest that very general rules determine dominant trends in PPMR in diverse marine ecosystems, leading to the ubiquity of size-based trophic structuring and the consistency of observed relationships between the relative abundance of individuals and their body size.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-232
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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