Conspecific individuals often exhibit behavioral differences that influence susceptibility to predation. Yet, how such trait differences scale to affect prey population regulation and community structure remains unclear. We used an 8 day field mesocosm experiment to explore the effects of intraspecific prey behavioral trait variation on survival in an herbivorous insect community. We further manipulated spider predator composition to test for top-down context-dependence of behavioral effects. Insect prey behavioral trait variance influenced survival through both direct (i.e., variation among conspecifics) and indirect (i.e., variation among heterospecifics) mechanisms. The behavioral variance of two prey species, Philaenus
, directly reduced their survival, though for Philaenus
, this direct negative effect only occurred in the presence of a single spider predator species. In contrast, the survival of Scudderia
was enhanced by the behavioral trait variance of the surrounding insect community, an indirect positive effect. Taken together, these results emphasize the importance of accounting for intraspecific variation in community ecology, demonstrating novel pathways by which individual-level behavioral differences scale to alter population and community level patterns.
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