The bigger the better? Predation and prey size choice in a patchy environment

Sundararaj Vijayan, Jesse Balaban-Feld, Shamir Badichi, Lotan Tamar Tov-Elem, Burt P. Kotler, William A. Mitchell, Zvika Abramsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prey individuals vary in their body size even within groups and are often scattered heterogeneously in patchy environments. A foraging predator has to evaluate and select the patches where it can maximize its energetic gains. We studied the foraging behavior of a predator (little egret, Egretta garzetta) hunting prey groups (goldfish, Carassius auratus) that differed in body size and composition across three different patches (one large, one mixed, and one small). We quantified predator’s stay time, return time and size-specific kills of the prey. The egret spent a similar amount of total time foraging in the three patches; however, it spent more time per-visit in pools containing large-bodied fish and also returned to those pools soonest after leaving to forage elsewhere, suggesting that the predators employ a time management strategy to maximize energetic returns. Furthermore, the egret preferentially killed larger individuals. Such size-selective predation can shift the prey size structure in the landscape and influence the dynamics of species interactions and eventually the structure of the communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-147
Number of pages15
JournalEthology Ecology and Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • body size
  • foraging games
  • goldfish
  • little egret
  • patch
  • prey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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