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Inconstancy in predator/prey ratios in Quaternary large mammal communities of Italy, with an appraisal of mechanisms

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Pasquale Raia*
Dipartimento STAT Università degli Studi del Molise, Via Mazzini 10, 86170 Isernia, Italy Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, L.go San Marcellino 10, 80138 Napoli, Italy
Carlo Meloro
Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, L.go San Marcellino 10, 80138 Napoli, Italy
Carmela Barbera
Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, L.go San Marcellino 10, 80138 Napoli, Italy
Corresponding author. Fax: +39 081 552 09 71. E-mail (P. Raia).


Constancy in predator/prey ratio (PPR) is a controversial issue in ecological research. Published reports support both constancy and inconstancy of the ratio in animal communities. Only a few studies, however, specifically address its course through time. Here we study the course of predator/prey ratio in communities of large Plio-Pleistocene mammals in Italy. After controlling for taphonomic biases, we find strong support for PPR inconstancy through time. Extinction, dispersal events, and differences in body size trends between predators and their prey were found to affect the ratio, which was distributed almost bimodally. We suggest that this stepwise dynamic in PPR indicates changes in ecosystem functioning. Prey richness was controlled by predation when PPR was high and by resources when PPR was low.

Research Article
University of Washington

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