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While handling large kills, mesocarnivores are particularly vulnerable to kleptoparasitism and predation from larger predators. We used 35 years of observational data on cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) hunts in Serengeti National Park to investigate whether cheetahs’ prey handling behavior varied in response to threats from lions (Panthera leo) and spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta). Male cheetahs and single females, whose main threat was kleptoparasitism, minimized time on the kill by being less vigilant and eating quickly, thereby shortening their handling times. Mothers with cubs showed a different strategy that prioritized vigilance over speed of eating, which increased time spent handling prey. Vigilance allowed them to minimize the risk of their cubs being killed while giving cubs the time they need to eat at the carcass. Flexible behavioral strategies that minimize individual risk while handling prey likely allow mesocarnivores to coexist with numerous and widespread apex predators. Significance statement Medium-sized carnivores like cheetahs face the challenge of coexisting with larger carnivores that steal their kills and kill their cubs. We investigated how cheetahs modify their behavior on kills to minimize risks from larger predators. Using 35 years of data on 400+ cheetah hunts across 159 individuals, we found that cheetahs without cubs whose primary danger is having their kill stolen spent little time engaged in vigilance and instead ate quickly, reducing the risk of theft. Mothers with cubs, however, took a slower approach and were more vigilant while handling prey to avoid cub predation by lions and spotted hyenas. The ability of cheetahs to modify their prey handling behavior depending on the type of risk they face likely allows them to coexist with numerous larger carnivores.
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... The food-web topology in our model resembles that observed in nature; thus, we are able to match our assumptions and predictions with many empirical examples. Most interspecific interactions are asymmetric, with one species more likely to gain access to and stay at a carcass, for example, lynx and wolverines and in wolves (Tallian et al., 2017) or solitary cats (Hilborn et al., 2018) and ursids (Krofel et al., 2012). The interaction between lions and hyenas is perhaps the only approximately symmetrical interaction. ...
... However, a positive value for n P increases handling time, and thus increases in S decreases predator kill rate. A negative value for n P decreases handling time, and thus increases in S increases predator kill rate.We include handling time of the carrion by the predator h CP in the equation for scavenging propensity by the predator s P though because we expect predators to generally behave adaptively(Hilborn et al., 2018). Recall the equation for , thus handling time of the predator affects the scavenging rate, which, also affects kill rate. ...
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Scavenging can have important consequences for food web dynamics, for example, it may support additional consumer species and affect predation on live prey. Still, few food web models include scavenging. We develop a dynamic model that includes two facultative scavenger species, which we refer to as the predator or scavenger species according to their natural scavenging propensity, as well as live prey, and a carrion pool to show ramifications of scavenging for predation in simple food webs. Our modeling suggests that the presence of scavengers can both increase and decrease predator kill rates and overall predation in model food webs and the impact varies (in magnitude and direction) with context. In particular, we explore the impact of the amount of dynamics (exploitative competition) allowed in the predator, scavenger, and prey populations as well as the direction and magnitude of interference competition between predators and scavengers. One fundamental prediction is that scavengers most likely increase predator kill rates, especially if there are exploitative feedback effects on the prey or carrion resources like is normally observed in natural systems. Scavengers only have minimal effects on predator kill rate when predator, scavenger, and prey abundances are kept constant by management. In such controlled systems, interference competition can greatly affect the interactions in contrast to more natural systems, with an increase in interference competition leading to a decrease in predator kill rate. Our study adds to studies that show that the presence of predators affects scavenger behavior, vital rates, and food web structure, by showing that scavengers impact predator kill rates through multiple mechanisms, and therefore indicating that scavenging and predation patterns are tightly intertwined. We provide a road map to the different theoretical outcomes and their support from different empirical studies on vertebrate guilds to provide guidance in wildlife management. Scavenging, while often ignored, can have major impacts on predation and food web dynamics. We convert empirical observations on scavenging and predation into a theoretical framework to explain observed contrasting patterns and make predictions across different food webs.
... It has also been associated with generalist carnivores whose dietary breadth makes them more likely to handle a variety of food items or engage in a multitude of foraging behaviors Stanton et al. 2021Stanton et al. , 2022. Behavioral flexibility is observed in wild carnivores' shifts in diel patterns (Gaynor et al. 2018;Murray and St. Clair 2015) and hunting and prey handling behavior (Hilborn et al. 2018;Kienle et al. 2019). Behavioral flexibility is empirically tested using reversal learning, inhibitory control, and problem-solving tasks (Audet and Lefebvre 2017). ...
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... However, in our study we determined feeding events to have a high impact on their behavioural rhythms. Various studies have already shown that feeding, access to food and hunger have an influence on the circadian rhythm [1,4,10,96]. In addition, an influence on this rhythm could be demonstrated in felids through carcass feeding [97]. ...
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... Additionally, cubs might not be able to flee from predators as efficiently as adult cheetahs (Caro, 1987); therefore, increased vigilance by females with cubs likely serves as a means of enhanced detection of predators to allow cubs the maximum amount of time to flee from a risky situation. Similar to our results, previous research on cheetah behaviour at kill sites in the Serengeti found that female cheetahs with cubs spent more time vigilant than feeding (Hilborn et al., 2018). Increased antipredator behaviour by females with offspring has been observed in a variety of herbivore prey (Burger & Gochfeld, 1994;Toïgo, 1999), likely as a means of prioritizing offspring safety to maximize lifetime reproductive success. ...
Article
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... More broadly, dominant carnivores often, but not always, tend to limit subordinate carnivore abundance 3 . Where demographic or landscape-scale carnivore competitive responses are unexpectedly absent, short-term behavioral responses may be a mechanism facilitating coexistence 50 . Though many studies of vigilance have focused on herbivorous prey [51][52][53][54][55] , vigilance may also be an important risk response to intraguild predators and competing carnivore species 23 Artificial scavenging sites. ...
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... 71 As an example, the spotted hyenas and lions can threaten cheetahs while they are hunting. 72 Or, lions can easily take the prey from spotted hyenas in convenient conditions. 73 Such examples can be given for any kind of hunter-animal. ...
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... Cheetahs are subordinate to lions, and the majority of cheetah mortality is from lion predation 22 . In addition to direct predation, lions can steal prey from cheetahs 23 , and can affect the habitat use and behavior of cheetahs 24,25 . In turn, these non-consumptive effects related to predation risk might affect the long-term survival and fitness of cheetahs. ...
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Chapter
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