Consumer-resource body-size relationships in natural food webs

Ulrich Brose, Tomas Jonsson, Eric L. Berlow, Philip Warren, Carolin Banasek-Richter, Louis Félix Bersier, Julia L. Blanchard, Thomas Brey, Stephen R. Carpenter, Marie France Cattin Blandenier, Lara Cushing, Hassan A. Dawah, Tony Dell, Francois Edwards, Sarah Harper-Smith, Ute Jacob, Mark E. Ledger, Neo D. Martinez, Jane Memmott, Katja MintenbeckJohn K. Pinnegar, Björn C. Rall, Thomas S. Rayner, Daniel C. Reuman, Liliane Ruess, Werner Ulrich, Richard J. Williams, Guy Woodward, Joel E. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

506 Scopus citations


It has been suggested that differences in body size between consumer and resource species may have important implications for interaction strengths, population dynamics, and eventually food web structure, function, and evolution. Still, the general distribution of consumer-resource body-size ratios in real ecosystems, and whether they vary systematically among habitats or broad taxonomic groups, is poorly understood. Using a unique global database on consumer and resource body sizes, we show that the mean bodysize ratios of aquatic herbivorous and detritivorous consumers are several orders of magnitude larger than those of carnivorous predators. Carnivorous predator-prey body-size ratios vary across different habitats and predator and prey types (invertebrates, ectotherm, and endotherm vertebrates). Predator-prey body-size ratios are on average significantly higher (1) in freshwater habitats than in marine or terrestrial habitats, (2) for vertebrate than for invertebrate predators, and (3) for invertebrate than for ectotherm vertebrate prey. If recent studies that relate body-size ratios to interaction strengths are general, our results suggest that mean consumer-resource interaction strengths may vary systematically across different habitat categories and consumer types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2411-2417
Number of pages7
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2006


  • Allometry
  • Body length
  • Body mass
  • Body-size ratio
  • Food webs
  • Parasitoid-host
  • Predation
  • Predator-prey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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