The specter of predation: The effects of vipers on the foraging behavior of two gerbilline rodents

Burt P. Kotler, Heidi Dednam, Leon Blaustein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Predation may have profound effects on individual growth rates, population dynamics, and species interactions via its influence on prey foraging behavior.Here, we examine the response of two gerbil species (Gerbillus allenbyi and G.pyramidum) to greater sand vipers (Cerastes cerastes) and to added illumination (a factor associated with increased risk of predation from owls). We measured gerbil foraging behavior using the number of seed trays (resource patches) foraged and amount of seed resources left in each tray (giving-up densities; GUDs). Fewer seed trays foraged andhigherGUDs indicate a higher perceived risk of predation. Accordingly, G. allenbyi foraged fewer seed trays in response to illumination and in the open microhabitat In addition, vipers may have affected foraging activity in both gerbil species and caused G. pyramidum to forage in fewer trays in the bush microhabitat. Viper activity also caused both species to abandon seed trays at higher GUDs. Overall, gerbils altered their use of resource patches in response to the risk of predation. Comparison to results from previous experiments indicates that the response of the gerbils to predators depends on the nature of the threat posed by the predator.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-21
Number of pages11
JournalIsrael Journal of Zoology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank M.F. Eyphal and C. Shochat for technical assistance. We further wish to thank Z. Abramsky, A. Bouskila. J.S. Brown, 0. Hasson, R.D. Holt, S. Lima, W.A. Mitchell, A. Sib, M.L. Rosenzweig, and H. Ylonen for valuable discussion. Special thanks go to Amos Bouskila for making this project possible. This work was supported by the Israel Academy of Science and Humanities (Basic Research grant 524/88). This is publication #165 of the Mitrani Center for Desert Ecology.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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