Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 351–361

Cheetah mothers' vigilance: looking out for prey or for predators?

  • T. M. Caro

DOI: 10.1007/BF00300681

Cite this article as:
Caro, T.M. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1987) 20: 351. doi:10.1007/BF00300681


Free-living cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) cubs are killed by a number of predators, thus vigilance in cheetah mothers may be a form of anti-predator behaviour as well as a means of locating prey. Mothers' vigilance during the day was closely associated with measures of hunting but not with measures of anti-predator behaviour. In contrast, mothers' vigilance at kills was not related to hunting but was related to anti-predator behaviour. Both forms of vigilance decreased as cubs grew older. Vigilance during the day increased with litter size which supports a model of ‘shared’ parental investment (Lazarus and Inglis 1986) because after prey had been located and caught by mothers, cubs shared the prey between them. Vigilance at kills did not increase with litter size when cubs were young; in these situations predators stole cheetahs' prey and rarely chased cubs so, at most, only a single cub would be taken. Mothers' anti-predator behaviour away from kills did increase with litter size at young cub ages however; more cubs are killed in these circumstances the greater is the size of the litter. When cubs were older and could outrun predators, neither vigilance at kills nor anti-predator behaviour increased with litter size. These results strongly support two models of ‘unshared’ investment (Lazarus and Inglis 1986) and demonstrate, not only that superficially similar behaviour has different functions in different contexts, but that parental investment is shaped by the type of benefits accrued from it.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. M. Caro
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Sub-Department of Animal BehaviourUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Serengeti Wildlife Research InstituteArushaTanzania
  3. 3.Evolution and Human Behavior Program, Backham BuildingUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA