Type III functional response in Daphnia
The functional response of Daphnia, a common pelagic herbivore in lakes, was assessed with a combination of secondary and meta-analyses of published data and new data from an experiment conducted using very low food levels. Secondary analyses of literature data (28 studies, n = 239-393) revealed a significant positive influence of food concentration on Daphnia clearance rate at low food levels, i.e., evidence of an overall Type III functional response. This result was not an artifact of including data from Daphnia that were exhausted from prolonged food deprivation (more than three hours at very low food). Meta-analysis of Daphnia clearance rate vs. food concentration across a range of low food concentrations (eight studies) showed a significantly positive slope across studies, which also supports the presence of a Type III response. Congruent with these analyses of published data, the feeding experiment showed clear evidence of a Type III functional response for D. pulicaria feeding on Ankistrodesmus falcatus. Food levels at which Daphnia clearance rate declined with decreasing food were near the minimum resource requirement for Daphnia population maintenance at steady state (R*). We suggest that Type III responses are more common than previously believed, perhaps because of the relative paucity of observations at low food levels, and that reduced prey mortality at low phytoplankton densities could be a stabilizing mechanism for Daphnia-phytoplankton systems under resource scarcity.