Population Ecology

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 319–324

An experimental design and a statistical analysis separating interference from exploitation competition



Previous experimental studies of competition among foragers rarely distinguished between exploitation and interference competition. In many systems this separation is experimentally impossible without interfering with the natural behavior of the animals. Consequently, these studies can only demonstrate the combined effect of interference and exploitation on the forager’s feeding rate, namely, it usually decreases in a decelerating rate as a function of density. We suggest here a simple experimental and statistical procedure that facilitates the separation of the effects of interference from those of exploitation. This procedure includes manipulation of both predator density and the foraging experiment duration. The statistical analysis is based on multiple linear regression. The working assumption is that exploitation can be neglected at the beginning of the foraging experiment because, initially, predators do not experience diminishing returns in prey capture rates. Using both the results of an individual-based simulation and a field experiment dataset of gerbils foraging for seeds in an artificial food patch located in the field, we demonstrate that our procedure can successfully detect and separate the effect of interference from the combined overall effect of competition (i.e., interference plus exploitation).


Functional response Individual based model Searching behavior 


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Life SciencesBen-Gurion University of the NegevBeer-ShevaIsrael

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