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Data from: Human shields mediate sexual conflict in a top predator

Cite this dataset

Steyaert, Sam M.J.G. et al. (2016). Data from: Human shields mediate sexual conflict in a top predator [Dataset]. Dryad.


Selecting the right habitat in a risky landscape is crucial for an individual's survival and reproduction. In predator–prey systems, prey often can anticipate the habitat use of their main predator and may use protective associates (i.e. typically an apex predator) as shields against predation. Although never tested, such mechanisms should also evolve in systems in which sexual conflict affects offspring survival. Here, we assessed the relationship between offspring survival and habitat selection, as well as the use of protective associates, in a system in which sexually selected infanticide (SSI), rather than interspecific predation, affects offspring survival. We used the Scandinavian brown bear (Ursus arctos) population with SSI in a human-dominated landscape as our model system. Bears, especially adult males, generally avoid humans in our study system. We used resource selection functions to contrast habitat selection of GPS-collared mothers that were successful (i.e. surviving litters, n = 19) and unsuccessful (i.e. complete litter loss, n = 11) in keeping their young during the mating season (2005–2012). Habitat selection was indeed a predictor of litter survival. Successful mothers were more likely to use humans as protective associates, whereas unsuccessful mothers avoided humans. Our results suggest that principles of predator–prey and fear ecology theory (e.g. non-consumptive and cascading effects) can also be applied to the context of sexual conflict.

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