, Volume 62, Issue 12, pp 1863-1868
Date: 05 Jul 2008

Within-group spatial position and vigilance: a role also for competition? The case of impalas (Aepyceros melampus) with a controlled food supply

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Theory predicts that individuals at the periphery of a group should be at higher risk than their more central conspecifics since they would be the first to be encountered by an approaching terrestrial predator. As a result, it is expected that peripheral individuals display higher vigilance levels. However, the role of conspecifics in this “edge effect” may have been previously overlooked, and taking into account the possible role of within-group competition is needed. Vigilance behavior in relation to within-group spatial position was studied in impalas (Aepyceros melampus) feeding on standardized patches. We also controlled for food distribution in order to accurately define a “central” as opposed to a “peripheral” position. Our data clearly supported an edge effect, with peripheral individuals spending more time vigilant than their central conspecifics. Data on social interactions suggest that it was easier for a foraging individual to defend its feeding patch with its head lowered, and that more interactions occurred at the center of the group. Together, these results indicate that central foragers may reduce their vigilance rates in response to increased competition. Disentangling how the effects of competition and predation risk contribute to the edge effect requires further investigations.

Communicated by T. Czeschlik