Emergent multiple predator effects in an experimental microbial community

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Studies on multiple predator effects have typically focused on metazoans. Here we examined the effects of multiple consumers on bacteria. Specifically, we investigated the separate and combined effects of two common bacterivorous ciliates, Colpidium striatum and Paramecium caudatum, on a simple bacterial assemblage. Non-additive multiple predator effects emerged for all bacterial species significantly affected by grazing, where bacterial responses in the two-consumer treatment cannot be predicted by summing the separate effects of the two consumers. Some species showed risk reduction (observed responses less than expected), whereas others showed risk enhancement (observed responses larger than expected). We attributed risk alteration to the interference between the two consumers. Contradictory to theoretical predictions, total bacterial abundance in the two-consumer treatment did not differ from single-consumer treatments and consumer-free controls, due largely to risk reduction and compensatory responses within the bacterial assemblage. Decomposition of particulate organic matter was greater in the two-consumer treatment than the Paramecium single-consumer treatment, but did not differ among other treatments. These results suggest that the presence of multiple consumers may have unexpected impacts on the structure and functioning of bacterial communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-731
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Bacterial diversity
  • Colpidium striatum
  • Ecosystem functioning
  • Multiple predator effects
  • Paramecium caudatum


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