Climate drives the geography of marine consumption by changing predator communities

Matthew A. Whalen*, Ross D. B. Whippo, John J. Stachowicz, Paul H. York, Erin Aiello, Teresa Alcoverro, Andrew H. Altieri, Lisandro Benedetti-Cecchi, Camilla Bertolini, Midoli Bresch, Fabio Bulleri, Paul E. Carnell, Stephanie Cimon, Rod M. Connolly, Mathieu Cusson, Meredith S. Diskin, Elrika D'Souza, Augusto A. V. Flores, F. Joel Fodrie, Aaron W. E. GallowayLeo C. Gaskins, Olivia J. Graham, Torrance C. Hanley, Christopher J. Henderson, Clara M. Hereu, Margot Hessing-Lewis, Kevin A. Hovel, Brent B. Hughes, A. Randall Hughes, Kristin M. Hultgren, Holger Jänes, Dean S. Janiak, Lane N. Johnston, Pablo Jorgensen, Brendan P. Kelaher, Claudia Kruschel, Brendan S. Lanham, Kun-Seop Lee, Jonathan S. Lefcheck, Enrique Lozano-Alvarez, Peter I. Macreadie, Zachary L. Monteith, Nessa E. O'Conner, Andrew D. Olds, Jennifer K. O'Leary, Christopher J. Patrick, Oscar Pino, Alistair G. B. Poore, Michael A. Rasheed, Wendel W. Raymond, Katrin Reiss, O. Kennedy Rhoades, Max T. Robinson, Paige G. Ross, Francesca Rossi, Thomas A. Schlacher, Janina Seemann, Brian R. Silliman, Delbert L. Smee, Martin Thiel, Richard K. F. Unsworth, Brigitta I. van Tussenbroek, Adriana Verges, Mallarie E. Yeager, Bree K. Yednock, Shelby L. Ziegler, J. Emmett Duffy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


The global distribution of primary production and consumption by humans (fisheries) is well-documented, but we have no map linking the central ecological process of consumption within food webs to temperature and other ecological drivers. Using standardized assays that span 105 degrees of latitude on four continents, we show that rates of bait consumption by generalist predators in shallow marine ecosystems are tightly linked to both temperature and the composition of consumer assemblages. Unexpectedly, rates of consumption peaked at midlatitudes (25 to 35 degrees) in both Northern and Southern Hemispheres across both seagrass and unvegetated sediment habitats. This pattern contrasts with terrestrial systems, where biotic interactions reportedly weaken away from the equator, but it parallels an emerging pattern of a subtropical peak in marine biodiversity. The higher consumption at midlatitudes was closely related to the type of consumers present, which explained rates of consumption better than consumer density, biomass, species diversity, or habitat. Indeed, the apparent effect of temperature on consumption was mostly driven by temperature-associated turnover in consumer community composition. Our findings reinforce the key influence of climate warming on altered species composition and highlight its implications for the functioning of Earth's ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28160-28166
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number45
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • latitudinal gradients
  • trophic processes
  • seagrass
  • biogeography
  • macroecology
  • Latitudinal gradients | trophic processes seagrass biogeography | macroecology


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