The hydra effect in predator-prey models

M Sieber, Frank M Hilker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (SciVal)


The seemingly paradoxical increase of a species population size in response to an increase in its mortality rate has been observed in several continuous-time and discrete-time models. This phenomenon has been termed the “hydra effect”. In light of the fact that there is almost no empirical evidence yet for hydra effects in natural and laboratory populations, we address the question whether the examples that have been put forward are exceptions, or whether hydra effects are in fact a common feature of a wide range of models. We first propose a rigorous definition of the hydra effect in population models. Our results show that hydra effects typically occur in the well-known Gause-type models whenever the system dynamics are cyclic. We discuss the apparent discrepancy between the lack of hydra effects in natural populations and their occurrence in this standard class of predator–prey models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-360
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Mathematical Biology
Issue number1-2
Early online date18 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


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