A predator equalizes rate of capture of a schooling prey in a patchy environment

Sundararaj Vijayan, Burt P. Kotler, Zvika Abramsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Prey individuals are often distributed heterogeneously in the environment, and their abundances and relative availabilities vary among patches. A foraging predator should maximize energetic gains by selectively choosing patches with higher prey density. However, catching behaviorally responsive and group-forming prey in patchy environments can be a challenge for predators. First, they have to identify the profitable patches, and second, they must manage the prey's sophisticated anti-predator behavior. Thus, the forager and its prey have to continuously adjust their behavior to that of their opponent. Given these conditions, the foraging predator's behavior should be dynamic with time in terms of foraging effort and prey capture rates across different patches. Theoretically, the allocation of its time among patches of behaviorally responsive prey should be such that it equalizes its prey capture rates across patches through time. We tested this prediction in a model system containing a predator (little egret) and group-forming prey (common gold fish) in two sets of experiments in which (1) patches (pools) contained equal numbers of prey, or in which (2) patches contained unequal densities of prey. The egret equalized the prey capture rate through time in both equal and different density experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-95
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioural Processes
Volume138
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2017

Keywords

  • Anti-predatory behavior
  • Foraging behavior
  • Group forming
  • Optimal foraging
  • Patch
  • Predator–prey interactions

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