Does it tend to be true that as you go up the food chain, the species tend to cover wider areas? I am basically asking whether a population's prey varies spatially more than a population's predators and parasites, which would vary more temporally: the predators and parasites to which a population is exposed tends to be the same across the population but the prey vary more spatially because the prey tend to traverse smaller areas. I would think this were true, since predators have larger body sizes and my thinking is that species with larger body sizes tend to travel farther and parasites may locate on multiple hosts, which collectively carry them farther than any single host. This is my inference, but I do not even know what to type into Google Scholar in order to check this.

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    $\begingroup$ Please show your own attempt at answering the question to avoid having your question downvoted. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Jun 28, 2017 at 1:29
  • $\begingroup$ I edited the question. $\endgroup$
    – sterid
    Jun 28, 2017 at 1:59
  • $\begingroup$ Related (but different!): biology.stackexchange.com/questions/60627/… $\endgroup$
    – arboviral
    Oct 3, 2017 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ many prey species have exceeding large migratory routes saying they travel less then predators is unfounded. predators do not always have larger body sizes either. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jan 1, 2018 at 6:26

2 Answers 2


The ability of prey to find refuge in predator-free habitats is a fundamental hypothesis for predator-prey stability. The availablility of predator-free patches allows the prey metapopulation to maintain positive population growth in some patches, despite being decimated by predators in other patches. If the predators are far superior dispersers, they would eat all the prey, possibly driving the prey—and themselves—extinct.

That being said, it's difficult to make generalizations about spatial food webs. In nature, prey, predator, and parasite populations persist due to a multitude of factors, including the spatial configuration of suitable habitats, their dispersal rates, interactions with competitors and mutualists, etc. For example, in a system where carnivores hunt herbivores, sure, the predator may disperse across the landscape, hunting across more than one herbivore metapopulation; in other systems, such as those that may be more spatiotemporally variable (e.g., prone to disturbance and local extinctions), the ability of the prey to disperse faster than the predator could be a crucial aspect of predator-prey stability.

Some theoretical resources include: Comins et al. 1992, Holt 2002, Amarasekare 2008.

A foundational experiment is that of Huffaker, who dispersed mites on oranges: Huffaker 1958. Also, take a look at work on host-phage interactions: Schrag and Mittler 1996.

For Google Scholar searches, try various combinations of the following words: spatial, host, parasite, predator, prey, stability, coexistence, food web.


Yes there is a bit of correlation for animal weight, it's a very vague graph. No, food chains don't correlate predictably well because of the different locomotion energies of birds, mammals, insects, wind transport, river and tide transport, and ecosystem differences.

Every time there is a different locomotion type and energy, it makes exceptions. flying animals like geese, sparrows and locusts can travel thousands of miles compared to their all of the predators, eagles, foxes and spiders.

It's too general. It's 50 questions in one, you encompass millions of species. There isn't a clear study to consider for it. Parasites places in the food chain is not very clear, it's another topic too. Parasites are the contrary, they are small, so the host can travel more than the parasite, even if it's attached like a tick.

Elephant home range varies from 50 to 3000km,

here are home ranges, which can vary 10,000 times for the same wieght animals: enter image description here


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