Consumer pressure in benthic communities is predicted to be higher at low than at high latitudes, but support for this pattern has been ambiguous, especially for herbivory. To understand large-scale variation in biotic interactions, we quantify consumption (predation and herbivory) along 2500 km of the Chilean coast (19°S–42°S). We deployed tethering assays at ten sites with three different baits: the crab Petrolisthes laevigatus as living prey for predators, dried squid as dead prey for predators/scavengers, and the kelp Lessonia spp. for herbivores. Underwater videos were used to characterize the consumer community and identify those species consuming baits. The species composition of consumers, frequency of occurrence, and maximum abundance (MaxN) of crustaceans and the blenniid fish Scartichthys spp. varied across sites. Consumption of P. laevigatus and kelp did not vary with latitude, while squid baits were consumed more quickly at mid and high latitudes. This is likely explained by the increased occurrence of predatory crabs, which was positively correlated with consumption of squidpops after 2 h. Crabs, rather than fish, were the principal consumers of squid baits (91% of all recorded predation events) at sites south of 30°S. Fish and crustaceans preyed in similar proportion on P. laevigatus, with most fish predation events at northern sites. The absence of any strong latitudinal patterns in consumption rate of tethered prey is likely due to redundancy among consumers across the latitudinal range, with crustaceans gaining in importance with increasing latitude, possibly replacing fish as key predators.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was financed by a FONDECYT Grant (CONICYT-FONDECYT 1161383). Acknowledgements