Data from: Little to fear: largest lizard predator induces weak defense responses in ungulate prey
Jessop, Timothy et al. (2018), Data from: Little to fear: largest lizard predator induces weak defense responses in ungulate prey, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.7np78gp
Non-consumptive effects can strongly influence apex predator ecological function. These effects arise because prey produce often induce costly phenotypic responses to mitigate predation risk. Yet because predator-prey interactions are complex, prey defences may vary considerably. We investigated if the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), an reptile apex predator, induced multi-scale anti-predator responses in key prey, the Rusa deer (Cervus timorensis) and the wild pig (Sus scrofa). To this end, we examined the temporal and spatial partitioning of habitats by predator and prey, determined the size of ungulate groups as a function of risk, and assessed changes in individual behavior of prey individuals exposed to predator kairomones at feeding stations. Komodo dragon, deer and pig populations exhibited significant, but subtle differences in three habitat preferences, that otherwise indicated high niche overlap. Komodo dragon predation risk, alongside other commonly considered predictor variables did not affect deer or pig group size. With the exception of one individual-based vigilance type behavior in pigs, no other anti-predator behavior, including reduced food consumption, significantly varied in the presence of predator odour cue at feeding stations. Overall our results indicated limited evidence for anti-predator behavior and suggest Komodo dragons exert weak non-consumptive effects of predation in ungulates. However, weak predatory interactions could be beneficial in island ecosystems as it could promote predator-prey co-existence that reduces extinction risk.