Today, the topic is prey refuges. A prey refuge is some structure or behavior that an organism uses to escape from its predator. While going through my video files from the Channel Islands, I came across this great example of a prey refuge: a purple sea urchin using the holdfast of a kelp plant to avoid being eaten by a sheepshead wrasse.
What makes this relationship even more intricate is the fact that the urchin actually eats the kelp, the very thing that provides its refuge. In addition, the sheepshead requires kelp habitat for survival from its own predators, so what seems like a simple interaction really turns out to have far-reaching implications. And this is only taking into account these three species!
Food webs and the ecosystems they maintain are incredibly complex. Figuring out which species and interactions matter most for ecosystem health and function is one of the key areas of focus of our lab.