Gerbils under threat of owl predation: Isoclines and isodars

Zvika Abramsky, Michael L. Rosenzweig, Aziz Subach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


We trained barn owls to fly over 2-ha field enclosures containing populations of Gerbillus allenbyi. Each 2-ha plot was divided into two equal parts by a fence with gates allowing easy passage of the gerbils. We varied the number of gerbils in the enclosure and the number of owl flights on each side of the dividing fence. Gerbil foraging activity responded within two hours to the difference ha number of owl flights over the subplots. The greater the difference, the more the gerbils shifted their foraging to the subplot with fewer flights. Gerbils did not reduce their total foraging effort but redistributed it between subplots. In the absence of owl flights, gerbils divided their foraging effort equally between the matched subplots. Thus, they appear to seek an ideal free distribution in the two halves of each plot. Therefore, based on the gerbils' distribution of activity in the presence of different numbers of owl flights over the two subplots we estimated the shapes and slopes of the gerbil victim isoclines in the middle and right hand side of the 'gerbil-activity vs number of owl flights' state space. The isoclines were parallel straight lines with slope equal to -0.57 We believe this to be the first estimate of a victim isocline for a population of vertebrates in the field. Using the isodar method of Morris, we also determined that the fitness cost of each additional gerbil, i.e., per capita intraspecific competition among the G. allenbyi, is constant. It does not depend on either owl flight frequencies or G. allenbyi densities. The isodar also shows that the fitness cost of added owl flights does not vary with G. allenbyi population densities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-90
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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