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Keywords:

  • Astrocaryum standleyanum ;
  • Central American agouti;
  • Dasyprocta punctata ;
  • food limitation;
  • home range;
  • Panama;
  • predation risk;
  • radio telemetry

Abstract

Animals that rely on refuges for safety can theoretically increase their foraging area without simultaneously increasing predation risk and travel costs by using more refuges. The key prediction of this theory, a negative correlation between food abundance, home range size and the number of refuges used, has never been empirically tested. We determined how home range size and refuge use by the Central American agouti (Dasyprocta punctata) varied across a gradient of abundance of the agoutis' principal food source: seeds and fruits of the palm Astrocaryum standleyanum. We used both manual and automated radio telemetry to measure space use of 11 agoutis during 2 mo of the Astrocaryum fruiting season, and of another set of 10 agoutis during 6 mo in which the animals largely relied on cached Astrocaryum seeds. We found that agoutis living in areas of lower food density had larger home ranges, and that all individuals used multiple refuges. The number of refuges, however, was not correlated with home range size. Consequently, agoutis that had larger home ranges roamed farther from their refuges. These results suggest that agoutis increase their home range size in response to food scarcity at the cost of their safety.