Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Arthropods as Vertebrate Predators: A Review of Global Patterns

Version 1 : Received: 9 February 2020 / Approved: 10 February 2020 / Online: 10 February 2020 (05:29:27 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.


Arthropod predators preying on vertebrates is generally overlooked in ecological studies, as it is not typically observed in nature and generally considered a rare event. This is likely due to the cryptic nature of these predatory events, the relatively small size of arthropods, and the difficulty in collating published data which is scattered throughout the literature. Although arthropods are known to readily hunt and consume vertebrates, very little is known about these predatory events. In this study, a systematic literature review was conducted to provide a conceptual framework, identify global patterns, and create a searchable database of arthropod preying on vertebrates. This study represents the largest global assessment of arthropod predators and vertebrate prey with over a thousand recorded observations collated from over 80 countries across every continent except Antarctica, where no arthropod predator exists. Arthropod predators were represented by six classes (insects, arachnids, centipedes, and crustaceans: Malacostraca, Ostracoda, Hexanauplia) and over 80 families. Vertebrate prey were represented by five classes (birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish) and 160 families. The most common prey were frogs consisting of over a third of all observations. The most commonly preyed reptiles were nearly all lizards, half of mammal prey were bats, nearly a third of fish were Cypriniformes, and half of bird prey were passerines. Spiders represented over half of all predatory events found and were the main predator for all vertebrates except birds, which were preyed mostly upon praying mantises. However, prey varied between spider families. For insects, true bugs (Hemiptera) and beetles preyed mostly on amphibians while the aquatic Odonata larvae preyed on amphibians and fish. Decapod predators were observed preying equally between reptiles, birds, and amphibians; with centipedes preying mainly on reptiles and mammals. Predation was mostly recorded from the Americas and Australia, with countries and regions varying between predator and prey groups. This study demonstrates that arthropods are indeed an overlooked predator of vertebrates. Recognizing and quantifying these predator-prey interactions is vital for identifying patterns and the potential impact of these relationships on shaping vertebrate populations and communities. Understanding the possible threat of arthropod predators may be especially important to improve the success of conservation efforts by accounting for predators which may currently be overlooked.


predator-prey; insects; arthropods; entomology; herpetology; species interactions; predation


Biology and Life Sciences, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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