The use of time and space by male and female gerbils exploiting a pulsed resource

Burt P. Kotler, Chris R. Dickman, Gideon Wasserberg, Ofer Ovadia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Foraging theory postulates that interference is a foraging cost and affects patch exploitation and activity times. One such system contains two species of seed-eating gerbils inhabiting sandy habitats in the Negev Desert of Israel. Low population densities of the dominant species allowed us to examine the interaction between males and females of the subordinate species, Gerbillus andersoni allenbyi, as a function of interference and resource renewal. We used giving-up densities (GUDs; the amount of food left in a resource patch when a forager abandons the patch) in seed trays to quantify patch use by gerbils. By placing 6 trays at each foraging station and either presenting all 6 trays at the start of the night (pulse treatment) or presenting one tray at a station 6 times per night (renewal treatment), we were able to manipulate characteristics of resource renewal. We used radio telemetry to obtain an independent assessment of activity. Male and female G. a. allenbyi differed in their timing of activity, with males beginning earlier than females and remaining active later. This was most pronounced for the pulse treatment. For the renewal treatment, female activity in trays was more intense early in the night, but thereafter male activity was more intense. At the same time, telemetry showed that males and females did not differ in their total activity in or out of trays. This suggests that males begin their activity on the renewal treatment by exploiting the richest natural patches of seeds. Only later when these are depleted do they move to dominate the renewing seed trays. Finally, females exploited stabilized sand habitats more than did males, especially during the renewal treatment. Taken together, these findings suggest that male G. a. allenbyi interfere with foraging in females, causing temporal shifts in their use of space and resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-602
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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