Patch use in time and space for a meso-predator in a risky world

Patch use in time and space for a meso-predator in a risky world Predator–prey studies often assume a three trophic level system where predators forage free from any risk of predation. Since meso-predators themselves are also prospective prey, they too need to trade-off between food and safety. We applied foraging theory to study patch use and habitat selection by a meso-predator, the red fox. We present evidence that foxes use a quitting harvest rate rule when deciding whether or not to abandon a foraging patch, and experience diminishing returns when foraging from a depletable food patch. Furthermore, our data suggest that patch use decisions of red foxes are influenced not just by the availability of food, but also by their perceived risk of predation. Fox behavior was affected by moonlight, with foxes depleting food resources more thoroughly (lower giving-up density) on darker nights compared to moonlit nights. Foxes reduced risk from hyenas by being more active where and when hyena activity was low. While hyenas were least active during moon, and most active during full moon nights, the reverse was true for foxes. Foxes showed twice as much activity during new moon compared to full moon nights, suggesting different costs of predation. Interestingly, resources in patches with cues of another predator (scat of wolf) were depleted to significantly lower levels compared to patches without. Our results emphasize the need for considering risk of predation for intermediate predators, and also shows how patch use theory and experimental food patches can be used for a predator. Taken together, these results may help us better understand trophic interactions. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Oecologia Springer Journals

Patch use in time and space for a meso-predator in a risky world

Oecologia, Volume 159 (3) – Dec 11, 2008

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 by Springer-Verlag
Subject
Life Sciences; Plant Sciences ; Ecology
ISSN
0029-8549
eISSN
1432-1939
DOI
10.1007/s00442-008-1243-3
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Predator–prey studies often assume a three trophic level system where predators forage free from any risk of predation. Since meso-predators themselves are also prospective prey, they too need to trade-off between food and safety. We applied foraging theory to study patch use and habitat selection by a meso-predator, the red fox. We present evidence that foxes use a quitting harvest rate rule when deciding whether or not to abandon a foraging patch, and experience diminishing returns when foraging from a depletable food patch. Furthermore, our data suggest that patch use decisions of red foxes are influenced not just by the availability of food, but also by their perceived risk of predation. Fox behavior was affected by moonlight, with foxes depleting food resources more thoroughly (lower giving-up density) on darker nights compared to moonlit nights. Foxes reduced risk from hyenas by being more active where and when hyena activity was low. While hyenas were least active during moon, and most active during full moon nights, the reverse was true for foxes. Foxes showed twice as much activity during new moon compared to full moon nights, suggesting different costs of predation. Interestingly, resources in patches with cues of another predator (scat of wolf) were depleted to significantly lower levels compared to patches without. Our results emphasize the need for considering risk of predation for intermediate predators, and also shows how patch use theory and experimental food patches can be used for a predator. Taken together, these results may help us better understand trophic interactions.

Journal

OecologiaSpringer Journals

Published: Dec 11, 2008

References

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