Does Sex-Selective Predation Stabilize or Destabilize Predator-Prey Dynamics?
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Background: Little is known about the impact of prey sexual dimorphism on predator-prey dynamics and the impact of sexselective harvesting and trophy hunting on long-term stability of exploited populations. Methodology and Principal Findings: We review the quantitative evidence for sex-selective predation and study its longterm consequences using several simple predator-prey models. These models can be also interpreted in terms of feedback between harvesting effort and population size of the harvested species under open-access exploitation. Among the 81 predator-prey pairs found in the literature, male bias in predation is 2.3 times as common as female bias. We show that long-term effects of sex-selective predation depend on the interplay of predation bias and prey mating system. Predation on the ‘less limiting’ prey sex can yield a stable predator-prey equilibrium, while predation on the other sex usually destabilizes the dynamics and promotes population collapses. For prey mating systems that we consider, males are less limiting except for polyandry and polyandrogyny, and male-biased predation alone on such prey can stabilize otherwise unstable dynamics. On the contrary, our results suggest that female-biased predation on polygynous, polygynandrous or monogamous prey requires other stabilizing mechanisms to persist. Conclusions and Significance: Our modelling results suggest that the observed skew towards male-biased predation might reflect, in addition to sexual selection, the evolutionary history of predator-prey interactions. More focus on these phenomena can yield additional and interesting insights as to which mechanisms maintain the persistence of predator-prey pairs over ecological and evolutionary timescales. Our results can also have implications for long-term sustainability of harvesting and trophy hunting of sexually dimorphic species.