, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 37-47

Patch use as an indicator of habitat preference, predation risk, and competition

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Summary

A technique for using patch giving up densities to investigate habitat preferences, predation risk, and interspecific competitive relationships is theoretically analyzed and empirically investigated. Giving up densities, the density of resources within a patch at which an individual ceases foraging, provide considerably more information than simply the amount of resources harvested. The giving up density of a forager, which is behaving optimally, should correspond to a harvest rate that just balances the metabolic costs of foraging, the predation cost of foraging, and the missed opportunity cost of not engaging in alternative activities. In addition, changes in giving up densities in response to climatic factors, predation risk, and missed opportunities can be used to test the model and to examine the consistency of the foragers' behavior. The technique was applied to a community of four Arizonan granivorous rodents (Perognathus amplus, Dipodomys merriami, Ammospermophilus harrisii, and Spermophilus tereticaudus). Aluminum trays filled with 3 grams of millet seeds mixed into 3 liters of sifted soil provided resource patches. The seeds remaining following a night or day of foraging were used to determine the giving up density, and footprints in the sifted sand indicated the identity of the forager. Giving up densities consistently differed in response to forager species, microhabitat (bush versus open), data, and station. The data also provide useful information regarding the relative foraging efficiencies and microhabitat preferences of the coexisting rodent species.