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Keywords:

  • Allenby’s gerbils;
  • apprehension and vigilance;
  • barn owls;
  • foraging;
  • game theory;
  • giving-up density;
  • harvest rate curves;
  • predator–prey interactions;
  • predator state;
  • risk management

Ecology Letters (2010) 13: 302–310

Abstract

Predator–prey interactions are often behaviourally sophisticated games in which the predator and prey are players. Past studies teach us that hungrier prey take higher risks when foraging and that hungrier predators increase their foraging activity and are willing to take higher risks of injury. Yet no study has looked at the simultaneous responses of predator and prey to their own and each other’s hunger levels in a controlled environment. We looked for evidence of a state-dependent game between predators and their prey by simultaneously manipulating the hunger state of barn owls, and Allenby’s gerbils as prey. The owls significantly increased their activity when hungry. However, they did not appear to respond to changes in the hunger state of the gerbils. The gerbils reacted strongly to the owls’ state, as well as to their own state when the risk was perceived as high. Our study shows that predator–prey interactions give rise to a complex state-dependent game.