Large carnivore dangerousness affects the reactive spatial response of prey

Published: 31 March 2023| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/3yfn2jb6p8.1
Elise Say-Sallaz, Simon Chamaille-Jammes,
, antony antonio,
, Marion VALEIX


Predators differ through different attributes: their body size, sociality, speed, preferred prey size, hunting mode, etc. Altogether these characteristics contribute to shape an overall dangerousness, which is likely to underlie the variations in the nature and strength of a prey anti-predator responses. This link, although somehow intuitive, has been rarely quantified in natural ecosystems. The goal of this study is to compare the antipredator response of a prey to two predators with contrasting dangerousness in large terrestrial mammals, focusing on the less studied reactive spatial response. We assessed if plains zebras’ (Equus quagga) reactive spatial response differed after an encounter with African lions (Panthera leo) or spotted hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta). We expected lions to be perceived as more dangerous and hence to induce a stronger reactive spatial response than hyaenas. Using data from GPS collars deployed simultaneously on the three species, we studied the reactive spatial responses of zebras after coming into close proximity to either predator. We found that zebras responded differently, and more strongly to lions than to hyaenas. Indeed, zebras were twice more likely to flee after an encounter with a lion than a hyaena and, immediately after an encounter with a lion, zebras moved on average faster and further than after an encounter with a hyaena. The results of this study are consistent with a correlation between the predator dangerousness and the strength of the prey anti-predator response. Future studies covering other pairs of large carnivores are needed to rigorously assess the role of the different predator attributes (body size, speed, preferred prey, and hunting mode).



Biometrie et biologie evolutive


Behavioral Ecology, Carnivore, Predator-Prey Interaction


Agence Nationale de la Recherche


Agence Nationale de la Recherche


Agence Nationale de la Recherche


Darwin Initiative

Grant 162/09/015