Multi-elemental consumer-driven nutrient cycling when predators feed on different prey

Colton Herzog*, Jacob T. Reeves, Yetkin Ipek, Andrea Jilling, Dror Hawlena, Shawn M. Wilder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Predators play a fundamental role in cycling nutrients through ecosystems, by altering the amount and compositions of waste products and uneaten prey parts available to decomposers. Different prey can vary in their elemental content and the deposition of elements in predator waste can vary depending on which elements are preferentially retained versus eliminated as waste products. We tested how feeding on different prey (caterpillars, cockroaches, crickets, and flies) affected the concentrations of 23 elements in excreta deposited by wolf spider across 2 seasons (spring versus fall). Spider excreta had lower concentrations of carbon and higher concentrations of many other elements (Al, B, Ba, K, Li, P, S, Si, and Sr) compared to prey remains and whole prey carcasses. In addition, elemental concentrations in unconsumed whole prey carcasses and prey remains varied between prey species, while spider excreta had the lowest variation among prey species. Finally, the concentrations of elements deposited differed between seasons, with wolf spiders excreting greater concentrations of Fe, Mg, Mn, Mo, S, and V in the fall. However, in the spring, spiders excreted higher concentrations of Al, B, Ba, Ca, Cd, Cu, K, P, Na, Si, Sr, and Zn. These results highlight that prey identity and environmental variation can determine the role that predators play in regulating the cycling of many elements. A better understanding of these convoluted nutritional interactions is critical to disentangle specific consumer-driven effects on ecosystem function.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)729-742
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Elemental assimilation
  • Predator–prey interactions
  • Seasonality
  • Trace elements
  • Wolf spiders


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