Predator avoidance is likely to play a strong role in structuring species communities, even where actual mortality due to predation is low. In such systems, mortality may be low because predator avoidance is effective, and if the threat of predation is lifted then entire community structures may be altered. Where competition is intense, then competitor avoidance may have a similar impact on communities. Avoidance behaviors have been documented for a wide range of species, but this is the first attempt to document avoidance behavior within a large carnivore community. Audio playback techniques are used to examine the risk perceived by cheetahs from their two main competitors that are also their main predators, lions and hyenas. The results from these experiments show that cheetahs actively moved away from lion and hyena playback experiments, compared with dummy playbacks where no sound was played. Cheetahs showed no differences in their responses to playbacks dependent on their sex or reproductive status, suggesting they were responding principally to a competition rather than a predation threat. However, cheetahs were much less likely to hunt after competitor playbacks than after dummy playbacks, and this resulted in a lower kill rate after competitor playbacks, demonstrating that the perceived presence of competitors had a noticeable impact on the foraging rate of cheetahs. Furthermore, while cheetahs moved just as far following lion playbacks as after hyena playbacks, they spent significantly more time looking at the loudspeaker and were less likely to make a kill after lion playbacks, suggesting that cheetahs perceive lions to be a greater threat than hyenas. Key words
Behavioral Ecology – Oxford University Press
Published: Nov 1, 2000
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