Research Topic

Integrating Predation Risk Across Scales: from Neurons to Ecosystems and Milliseconds to Generations

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How organisms recognize and respond to predator stress can be explored across spatial scales ranging from neurons to ecosystems, and across temporal scales ranging from milliseconds to generations. Researchers have found that even microscopic organisms possess an impressive ability to utilize both previous ...

How organisms recognize and respond to predator stress can be explored across spatial scales ranging from neurons to ecosystems, and across temporal scales ranging from milliseconds to generations. Researchers have found that even microscopic organisms possess an impressive ability to utilize both previous experience and environmental cues to fine-tune risk responses - and that the neurobiology of responses to risk in individual prey can, when aggregated across a population, profoundly affect surrounding communities and ecosystems. Similarly, researchers are increasingly aware of how quickly selection and epigenetic forces can shift prey phenotypes and alter future interactions with predators. In both cases, the connections between small-scale (within an individual or at a single point in time) and large-scale (across ecosystems or generations) processes illustrate how exploring the 'linkage map' of predator-prey interactions across scales can identify new fields of research and synergize the collaborations necessary to address them.

This Research Topic brings together work from across different spatial and temporal scales in order to illustrate the connections between them. We are specifically interested in exploring the intersection of neurobiology and ecology, and in understanding the impact of predator stress across time. For example, we might look 'back' into the evolution of predator responses, mechanisms [neuro] to consequences [eco]… and into the forces and processes that govern fear relaxation. In the 'present', we could examine behavior, the neural underpinnings of threat detection, and how this framework scales upward to determine the outcome of predator-prey interactions. The impact of anthropogenic environmental change could also be explored - what can neurobiology tell us, for instance, about how nocturnal prey perceive stress in brightly-lit human environments? Going 'forward', we could explore research seeking to alter fear's shadow (e.g., PTSD, chemical enhancers and inhibitors of fear effects) and how maternal effects might alter future generations' neurobiology and perception of risk. The recent publication of ground-breaking studies that take such an across-scale approach in free-living organisms has confirmed that such work is feasible - and the findings have transformed our understanding of how risk structures all aspects of an organism's life and interactions. This collection brings together work from researchers interested in such across-scale questions, moving us closer to a holistic understanding of when, where, why, and how predation risk matters.


Keywords: Predator, prey, risk, behavior, fear


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