Does intraspecific competition among Allenby's gerbils lead to an Ideal Free Distribution across foraging patches?

Douglas F. Makin, Burt P. Kotler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Employing the Ideal Free Distribution (IFD) principle as a tool, we investigated how Allenby's gerbils (Gerbillus andersoni allenbyi) utilized food patches within and moved between connected quadrants (i.e., ‘habitats’) in a large outdoor semi-natural enclosure. These habitats differed in initial forager densities, but provided equal numbers of standardized food patches that provided equal rewards (i.e. food) and costs (i.e. predation risk, metabolic, and missed opportunity). We quantified the gerbils’ giving-up-densities (GUDs) within foraging patches and recorded their daily distribution between habitats. Individual gerbils were tagged with unique bar-coded numbers to compare their locations within and across habitats. The mean number of gerbil foragers (9.1 and 8.9 individuals, respectively) and GUDs evened out across habitats over time. Despite this, the distribution of gerbils did not remain static within foraging patches; instead, gerbils altered their use of patches across and within habitats on a nightly basis. This may be due to a combination of factors including, high levels of interference competition between foragers at patches, a lag effect before the gerbils perceived changes in competition intensity with the arrival and departure of individuals, and gerbils having imperfect knowledge of their environment. Furthermore, the pattern of microhabitat (open vs bush patches) use by gerbils differed over time, indicating that despite the distribution of gerbils and their GUDs evening out between habitats, they still preferred foraging from safer bush patches over riskier open patches. This study provides insights into how under low predation risk, strong levels of intraspecific competition can shape the distribution of foragers across and within habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103922
JournalBehavioural Processes
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Competition
  • Distribution
  • Foraging
  • GUDs
  • Harvest rates
  • IFD
  • Resources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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