Reproduction in planktonic animals depends on numerous biotic and abiotic factors. One of them is predation pressure, which can have both direct consumptive effects on population density and sex ratio, and non-consumptive effects, for example on mating and migration behaviour. In copepods, predator vulnerability depends on their sex, motility pattern and mating behaviour. Therefore, copepods can be affected at multiple stages during the mating process. We investigated the reproductive dynamics of the estuarine copepod Eurytemora affinis in the presence and absence of its predator the mysid Neomysis integer in a mesocosm experiment. We found that the proportion of ovigerous females decreased in the presence of predators. This shift was not caused by differential predation as the absolute number of females was unaffected by mysid presence. Presence of predators reduced the ratio of males to non-ovigerous females, but not by predation of males. Our combined results suggest that the shift from ovigerous to non-ovigerous females under the presence of predators was caused by either actively delayed egg production or by shedding of egg sacs. Nauplii production was initially suppressed in the predation treatment, but increased towards the end of the experiment. The proportion of fertilized females was similar in both treatments, but constantly fell behind model predictions using a random mating model. Our results highlight the importance of non-consumptive effects of predators on copepod reproduction and hence on population dynamics.
Marine Biology, 2014, Vol 161, Issue 7, p. 1653-1666