Ecological Constraints on Predation by Large Felids

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Abstract

The evolutionary fitness of any predator, whether it is a spider catching insects or a lion hunting buffalo, depends largely on the quality and quantity of its diet. Predatory strategies are shaped and refined by natural selection to maximize nutrient intake within the bounds of a wide range of ecological constraints (e.g., prey density, habitat) that may differ dramatically for the same species at the extremes of its geographical distribution. The basic task of finding and gathering food under these constraints fundamentally affects a species’ spacing patterns and the structure of its social systems.