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Am Nat. 2000 May;155(5):669-683.

Predator and Prey Models with Flexible Individual Behavior and Imperfect Information.


To begin identifying what behavioral details might be needed to characterize community dynamics and stability, we examined the effect of prey behavioral responses to predation risk on community dynamics and stability. We considered the case of prey altering their foraging effort to trade off energy gain and predation risk. We used state-dependent dynamic optimization to calculate the optimal trade-off for four models of prey behaviorally responding to predation risk. We consider a fixed behavior model in which prey use constant levels of foraging effort and three flexible behavior models in which prey change their foraging effort according to their physiological state and their perceived level of predation risk. Flexible behavior was destabilizing at the community level as evidenced by higher predator-prey oscillations and lower community persistence times. The mechanisms by which prey estimated predation risk also affected community stability. We found that community dynamics resulting from prey with flexible behavior and fixed perception of risk approximated community dynamics resulting from prey with flexible behavior and perfect information about predation risk, however neither approximated the community dynamics resulting from prey with flexible behavior and flexible perception of risk. Thus, whether it might be possible to abstract complex behavior with simpler rules when modeling community dynamics depends on the prey's behavioral mechanisms, which are empirically poorly known.

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