Identifying what regulates populations and allows ecological interactions to persist has vexed ecolo-gists for almost 100 years (Howard and Fiske, 1911, Nicholson, 1933, 1957). Nicholson's work on density dependence (Nicholson, 1957) and predation (Nicholson and Bailey, 1935) has been hugely influential in the development of these broader aspects of ecological theory. Building on this, the theory of predator-prey interactions has made significant advances over the past few decades
(Hassell, 2000; Murdoch et al, 2003). Nevertheless, the integration of theory and data remains a challenge in ecology. Many of the components of predator-prey interactions have been separately quantified, originally using the classic approach to analysing population dynamics of key-factor analysis (Varley and Gradwell, 1960) or variants on this theme (Sibly and Smith, 1998). However, a number of limitations exist with this sort of approach, including the dynamics being misinterpreted, noise being mis-identified or ignored, and populations being embedded in a complex food web where single key factors are unlikely to operate. Modern methods of analysis of behavioural, population, and metapopulation data are making it much easier to parameterize ecological models with ecological data, and this is opening the way for a closer integration of theoretical and empirical ecology. It seems likely that understanding predator-prey interactions, in all their guises, will continue to provide essential, exciting, and challenging research and career opportunities for ecologists.
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