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Open Access Research article

Foraging under uniform risk from different types of predators

T Liesenjohann12* and JA Eccard12

Author Affiliations

1 Dep. of Animal Behavior, University of Bielefeld, Morgenbreede 45, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany

2 Dep. of Animal Ecology, Institut für Biochemie und Biologie der Universität Potsdam Maulbeerallee 2a, 14469 Potsdam, Germany

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BMC Ecology 2008, 8:19  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-8-19

Published: 10 December 2008

Abstract

Background

Many animals live in environments where different types of predators pose a permanent threat and call for predator specific strategies. When foraging, animals have to balance the competing needs of food and safety in order to survive. While animals sometimes can choose between microhabitats that differ in their risk of predation, many habitats are uniform in their risk distribution. So far, little is known about adaptive antipredator behavior under uniform risk. We simulated two predator types, avian and mammalian, each representing a spatially uniform risk in the artificial resource landscapes. Voles served as experimental foragers.

Results

Animals were exposed to factorial combinations of weasel odour and ground cover to simulate avian and/or mammalian predation. We measured short and long term responses with video analysis and giving-up densities. The results show that previously experienced conditions cause delayed effects. After these effects ceased, the risks of both types of predation caused a reduction in food intake. Avian predation induced a concentration on a smaller number of feeding patches. While higher avian risk caused a delay in activity, the weasel odour shortened the latency until the voles started to be active.

Conclusion

We show that the voles differed in risk types and adjusted their feeding strategies accordingly. Responses to avian and mammalian risk differed both in strength and time scales. Uniformity of risk resulted in a concentration of foraging investment and lower foraging efficiency.