Food aquisition and predator avoidance in a Neotropical rodent

L. Suselbeek, W.J. Emsens, B.T. Hirsch, R. Kays, J.M. Rowcliffe, V. Zamore-Gutierrez, P.A. Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Foraging activity in animals reflects a compromise between acquiring food and avoiding predation. The Risk Allocation Hypothesis predicts that prey animals optimize this balance by concentrating their foraging activity at times of relatively low predation risk, as much as their energy status permits, but empirical evidence is scarce. We used a unique combination of automated telemetry, manual radio telemetry and camera trapping to test whether activity at high-risk times declined with food availability, as predicted, in a Neotropical forest rodent, the Central American agouti (Dasyprocta punctata). We found that the relative risk of predation by the main predator, the Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), estimated as the ratio of ocelot to agouti activity on camera trap footage, was up to four orders of magnitude higher between sunset and sunrise than during the rest of the day. Kills of radio-tracked agoutis by ocelots during this high-risk period far exceeded expectations given agouti activity. Both telemetric monitoring of radio-tagged agoutis and camera monitoring of burrow entrances indicated that agoutis exited their burrows later at dawn, entered their burrows earlier at dusk, and had lower overall activity levels, as they lived in areas with higher food abundance. Thus, agoutis avoided activity during the high-risk period more strongly as access to food was higher. Our study provides quantitative empirical evidence of prey animals concentrating their activity at times of relatively low predation risk.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-48
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • agouti dasyprocta-punctata
  • ocelot leopardus-pardalis
  • scatter-hoarding rodent
  • barro-colorado island
  • antipredator behavior
  • allocation hypothesis
  • moonlight avoidance
  • foraging behavior
  • time allocation
  • habitat use


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