Food acquisition and predator avoidance in a Neotropical rodent

Suselbeek, Lennart, Emsens, Willem-Jans, Hirsch, Ben, Kays, Roland, Rowcliffe, J. Marcus, Zamora-Gutierrez, Veronica, and Jansen, Patrick (2014) Food acquisition and predator avoidance in a Neotropical rodent. Animal Behaviour, 88. pp. 41-48.

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Foraging activity in animals reflects a compromise between acquiring food and avoiding predation. The risk allocation hypothesis predicts that prey animals optimize this balance by concentrating their foraging activity at times of relatively low predation risk, as much as their energy status permits, but empirical evidence is scarce. We used a unique combination of automated telemetry, manual radiotelemetry and camera trapping to test whether activity at high risk times declined with food availability as predicted in a Neotropical forest rodent, the Central American agouti, Dasyprocta punctata. We found that the relative risk of predation by the main predator, the ocelot, Leopardus pardalis, estimated as the ratio of ocelot to agouti activity on camera trap photographs, was up to four orders of magnitude higher between sunset and sunrise than during the rest of the day. Kills of radiotracked agoutis by ocelots during this high-risk period far exceeded expectations given agouti activity. Both telemetric monitoring of radiotagged agoutis and camera monitoring of burrow entrances indicated that agoutis exited their burrows later at dawn, entered their burrows earlier at dusk and had lower overall activity levels when they lived in areas with higher food abundance. Thus, agoutis avoided activity during the high-risk period more strongly when access to food was higher. Our study provides quantitative empirical evidence of prey animals concentrating their activity at times of relatively low predation risk.

Item ID: 44221
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1095-8282
Keywords: camera trapping; daily activity patterns; Dasyprocta punctata; foraging–predation trade-off; Leopardus pardalis; optimal foraging; predation pressure; predator–prey interactions; radiotelemetry; risk allocation hypothesis
Funders: National Science Foundation (NSF), Netherlands Foundation for Scientific Research (NFSR), Frank Levinson Family Foundation
Projects and Grants: NSF DEB-0717071, NFSR NWO-ALW 863-07-008
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2016 04:38
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060801 Animal Behaviour @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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