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Mixed-species herding levels the landscape of fear

Citation

Stears, Keenan; Schmitt, Melissa; Wilmers, Christopher; Shrader, Adrian (2020), Mixed-species herding levels the landscape of fear, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.25349/D96S3G

Abstract

Prey antipredator behaviours are influenced by perceived predation risk in a landscape and social information gleaned from herd mates regarding predation risk. It is well documented that high-quality social information about risk can come from heterospecific herd mates. Here, we integrate social information with the landscape of fear to quantify how these landscapes are modified by mixed-species herding. To do this, we investigated zebra vigilance in single- and mixed-species herds across different levels of predation risk (lion vs. no lion), and assessed how they manage herd size and the competition-information trade-off associated with grouping behaviour. Overall, zebra performed higher vigilance in high-risk areas. However, mixed-species herding reduced vigilance levels. We estimate that zebra in single-species herds would have to feed for an additional ~35 minutes per day in low-risk areas and ~51 minutes in high-risk areas to compensate for the cost of higher vigilance. Furthermore, zebra benefitted from the competition-information trade-off by increasing the number of heterospecifics while keeping the number of zebra in a herd constant. Ultimately, we show that mixed-species herding reduces the effects of predation risk, whereby zebra in mixed-species herds, under high-predation risk, perform similar levels of vigilance compared to zebra in low-risk scenarios.