Temporal patterns of waterhole use as a predator avoidance strategy


Amoroso, CR; Kappeler, PM; Fichtel, C; Nunn, CL


Animals that depend on water sources in dry environments must balance their water demands with predation risk. In settings of water scarcity, predators may strategically exploit prey's dependence on water; prey may adjust their use of water sources either spatially or temporally to avoid overlapping with predators. To examine the spatiotemporal dynamics of predators and prey at water sources, we studied the use of semipermanent waterholes in the dry season by red-fronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons), a primate species that exhibits flexible circadian activity patterns and inhabits a dry deciduous forest in western Madagascar. We hypothesized that lemurs avoid predators in their spatiotemporal use of waterholes. We analyzed the patterns of camera trap activations at waterholes by red-fronted lemurs and their two main predators: fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) and Madagascar harrier hawks (Polyboroides radiatus). We found that red-fronted lemurs were unlikely to use waterholes at times of day when predators were commonly present, and that the distributions of times of waterhole use differed between red-fronted lemurs and each of their predator species. Red-fronted lemurs frequently used waterholes that were also used by predators within the same week in part because the predators used a variable set of water resources. In this system, predators did not appear to exploit waterholes for the high density of red-fronted lemurs attracted to them, but instead likely used waterholes primarily to meet their own water demands. Our findings suggest that when predators and prey share water sources, prey may adjust their behavior to reduce their risk of overlap with predators, including through avoidance of indirect cues of predation, such as waterholes at particular times of day.


Amoroso, C. R., P. M. Kappeler, C. Fichtel, and C. L. Nunn. “Temporal patterns of waterhole use as a predator avoidance strategy.” Journal of Mammalogy 101, no. 2 (May 19, 2020): 574–81. https://doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyaa020.

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