The effect of vegetation cover on vigilance and foraging tactics in the fat sand rat Psammomys obesus

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The combination of the visual obstruction and protection properties of vegetation is considered to be one of the most important factors determining the trade-off between vigilance and foraging in a prey species. In the Negev desert, diurnal fat sand rats construct their burrows in the ephemeral river beds ("wadis"), under dense and tall shrubs of Atriplex halimus, or on the open first fluvial terrace, covered with scattered low shrubs of Anabasis articulata. We tested the hypothesis that properties of the vegetation would affect the time budget of female sand rats. Sand rats spent more time aboveground, rested more, were less vigilant, and moved more slowly under the dense cover in the wadi than at the open terrace. No differences in the total foraging time were revealed, but foraging tactics varied between habitats: individuals in the wadi mainly fed aboveground, whereas those at the terrace mainly hoarded. Our results indicate that sand rats perceive the dense vegetation cover as good protection despite its visual obstructive nature, and that vigilance in Psammomys obesus is performed at the cost of resting rather than at the cost of foraging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-113
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Ethology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2001


  • Antipredator behavior
  • Obstruction/protection trade-off
  • Psammomys obesus
  • Vegetation cover
  • Vigilance


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