Bdellovibrio and like organisms (BALOs) are obligate predatory bacteria commonly encountered in the environment. In dual predator-prey cultures, prey accessibility ensures optimal feeding and replication and rapid BALO population growth. However, the environmental prey landscape is complex, as it also incorporates non-prey cells and other particles. These may act as decoys, generating unproductive encounters which in turn may affect both predator and prey population dynamics. In this study, we hypothesized that increasing decoy:prey ratios would bring about increasing costs on the predator's reproductive fitness. We also tested the hypothesis that different BALOs and decoys would have different effects. To this end, we constructed prey landscapes including periplasmic or epibiotic predators including two types of decoy under a large range of initial decoy:prey ratio, and mixed cultures containing multiple predators and prey. We show that as decoy:prey ratios increase, the maximal predator population sizes is reduced and the time to reach it significantly increases. We found that BALOs spent less time handling non-prey (including superinfection-immune invaded prey) than prey cells, and did not differentiate between efficient and less efficient prey. This may explain why in multiple predator and prey cultures, less preferred prey appear to act as decoy.
- Bdellovibrio and like organisms
- bacterial predation
- predation dynamics
- prey landscape