Herbivores employ a suite of antipredator behaviours to minimize risk from ambush and cursorial predators

Douglas F. Makin, Simon Chamaillé-Jammes, Adrian M. Shrader

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Prey species may adjust their use of antipredator behaviours to counter the hunting strategies (e.g. ambush versus cursorial) and the level of risk imposed by different predators. Studies of suites of behaviours across well-defined contrasts of predation risk and type are rare, however. Here we explored the degree to which six herbivore species adjusted their antipredator behaviours to two predator treatments (lion, Panthera leo, versus cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, and wild dogs, Lycaon pictus). We focused on prey behaviour (vigilance, grouping, temporal use) at waterholes. We predicted that if the hunting strategy of the predator was the key driver of antipredator behaviour, ambushing lions would elicit a greater response than cursorial cheetah and wild dogs. Alternatively, if predator preference was the main driver, then we expected prey species to adjust their antipredator behaviours in response to the predators that specifically target them (i.e. preferred prey of the different predators). Overall, we found that the herbivores maintained greater vigilance, generally moved in larger groups and used waterholes less at dawn, at dusk or at night (when lions are active) when exposed to the potential threat of ambushing lions. However, some species within the accessible prey range of cheetah and/or wild dogs (i.e. red hartebeest, warthog, gemsbok) moved in larger groups when exposed to these predators. Yet, the magnitude of the differences in group size for these herbivores were small. Thus, we suggest that, overall, the potential threat of ambushing lions was the main driver of antipredator behaviour around waterholes, probably determined by prey weight preference and the possibility of being ambushed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-231
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
StatePublished - 1 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • group size
  • hunting strategies
  • predator–prey interactions
  • prey preferences
  • temporal activity
  • vigilance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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