Predation risks suppress lifetime fitness in a wild mammal

Philip D. DeWitt, Darcy R. Visscher, Matthew S. Schuler, Richard P. Thiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Prey often reduce predation risk at the cost of lower resource intake. The cumulative effects of such tradeoffs can alter resource allocation, demography and evolutionary processes. We show how the accumulation of risk effects reduces the growth rate of wild North American porcupines Erethizon dorsatum, and simulate three evolutionary responses related to lifetime reproductive success. Individual porcupines experiencing predation risk from fishers Pekania pennanti grew slower and gave birth to fewer offspring. Simulations show that predation risk alone can lead to population declines, and that a female can replace herself by investing more energy into reproduction or adult survival; females that only invest energy in juvenile survival cannot. We show that the accumulation of predation risk can reduce lifetime reproductive success in natural ecosystems. Estimating the contribution of predation risk, and how evolutionary responses can mediate consequences associated with predation risk, is necessary to understand the evolution of predator–prey systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)790-797
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • citizen science
  • evolutionary ecology
  • fitness
  • non-consumptive effects (NCE)
  • population ecology
  • predator–prey dynamics


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