The impact of mortality on predator population size and stability in systems with stage-structured prey

Peter A. Abrams, Christopher Quince

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59 Citations (Scopus)


The relationships between a predator population's mortality rate and its population size and stability are investigated for several simple predator-prey models with stage-structured prey populations. Several alternative models are considered; these differ in their assumptions about the nature of density dependence in the prey's population growth; the nature of stage-transitions; and the stage-selectivity of the predator. Instability occurs at high, rather than low predator mortality rates in most models with highly stage-selective predation; this is the opposite of the effect of mortality on stability in models with homogeneous prey populations. Stage-selective predation also increases the range of parameters that lead to a stable equilibrium. The results suggest that it may be common for a stable predator population to increase in abundance as its own mortality rate increases in stable systems, provided that the predator has a saturating functional response. Sufficiently strong density dependence in the prey generally reverses this outcome, and results in a decrease in predator population size with increasing predator mortality rate. Stability is decreased when the juvenile stage has a fixed duration, but population increases with increasing mortality are still observed in large areas of stable parameter space. This raises two coupled questions which are as yet unanswered; (1) do such increases in population size with higher mortality actually occur in nature; and (2) if not, what prevents them from occurring? Stage-structured prey and stage-related predation can also reverse the 'paradox of enrichment', leading to stability rather than instability when prey growth is increased.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-266
Number of pages14
JournalTheoretical Population Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005


  • Hydra effect
  • Limit cycles
  • Predation
  • Predator-prey models
  • Stability
  • Stage structure

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