Theoretical Ecology

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 255–267

Evolutionary ecology of movement by predators and prey

  • Samuel M. Flaxman
  • Yuan Lou
  • François G. Meyer
Original Paper


An essential key to explaining the mechanistic basis of ecological patterns lies in understanding the consequences of adaptive behavior for distributions and abundances of organisms. We developed a model that simultaneously incorporates (a) ecological dynamics across three trophic levels and (b) evolution of behaviors via the processes of mutation, selection, and drift in populations of variable, unique individuals. Using this model to study adaptive movements of predators and prey in a spatially explicit environment produced a number of unexpected results. First, even though predators and prey had limited information and sometimes moved in the “wrong” direction, evolved movement mechanisms allowed them to achieve average spatial distributions approximating optimal, ideal free distributions. Second, predators’ demographic parameters had marked, nonlinear effects on the evolution of movement mechanisms in the prey: As the predator mortality rate was increased past a critical point, prey abruptly shifted from making very frequent movements away from predators to making infrequent movements mainly in response to resources. Third, time series analyses revealed that adaptive, conditional movements coupled ecological dynamics across species and space. Our results provide general predictions, heretofore lacking, about how predators and prey should respond to one another on both ecological and evolutionary time scales.


Predator–prey interactions Individual-based model Movements Ideal free distribution Conditional dispersal Migration 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel M. Flaxman
    • 1
  • Yuan Lou
    • 2
  • François G. Meyer
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Department of MathematicsThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  3. 3.Department of Electrical, Computer, and Energy EngineeringUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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