An experimental design and a statistical analysis separating interference from exploitation competition

Inon Scharf, Ido Filin, Ofer Ovadia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Previous experimental studies of competition among foragers rarely distinguished between exploitation and interference competition. In many systems this separation is experimentally impossible without interfering with the natural behavior of the animals. Consequently, these studies can only demonstrate the combined effect of interference and exploitation on the forager's feeding rate, namely, it usually decreases in a decelerating rate as a function of density. We suggest here a simple experimental and statistical procedure that facilitates the separation of the effects of interference from those of exploitation. This procedure includes manipulation of both predator density and the foraging experiment duration. The statistical analysis is based on multiple linear regression. The working assumption is that exploitation can be neglected at the beginning of the foraging experiment because, initially, predators do not experience diminishing returns in prey capture rates. Using both the results of an individual-based simulation and a field experiment dataset of gerbils foraging for seeds in an artificial food patch located in the field, we demonstrate that our procedure can successfully detect and separate the effect of interference from the combined overall effect of competition (i.e., interference plus exploitation).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-324
Number of pages6
JournalPopulation Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2008


  • Functional response
  • Individual based model
  • Searching behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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