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New paper! Relaxation of risk-sensitive behaviour of prey following disease-induced decline of an apex predator, the Tasmanian devil

June 17, 2015

An exciting new predator-prey interaction response paper co-authored by Prof. McCallum is now available! The paper was from Tracey Hollings' PhD, supervised by Prof. McCallum. The abstract and link are below.

 

Hollings, T., McCallum, H., Kreger, K., Mooney, N., Jones, M. (2015) Relaxation of risk-sensitive behaviour of prey following disease-induced decline of an apex predator, the Tasmanian devil. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282:20150124 (link).

 

Abstract:

Apex predators structure ecosystems through lethal and non-lethal interactions with prey, and their global decline is causing loss of ecological function. Behavioural changes of prey are some of the most rapid responses to predator decline and may act as an early indicator of cascading effects. The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), an apex predator, is undergoing progressive and extensive population decline, of more than 90% in long-diseased areas, caused by a novel disease. Time since local disease outbreak correlates with devil population declines and thus predation risk. We used hair traps and giving-up densities (GUDs) in food patches to test whether amajor prey species of devils, the arboreal common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), is responsive to the changing risk of predation when they forage on the ground. Possums spend more time on the ground, discover food patches faster and forage more to a lower GUD with increasing years since disease outbreak and greater devil population decline. Loss of top–down effects of devilswith respect to predation risk was evident at 90% devil population decline, with possum behaviour indistinguishable from a devil-free island. Alternative predators may help to maintain risk-sensitive anti-predator behaviours in possums while devil populations remain low.

 

 

 

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