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Integrating temporal refugia into landscapes of fear: prey exploit predator downtimes to forage in risky places


The landscape of fear is an important driver of prey space use. However, prey can navigate the landscape of fear by exploiting temporal refuges from predation risk. We hypothesized that diel patterns of predator and prey movement and space use would be inversely correlated due to temporal constraints on predator habitat domain. Specifically, we evaluated habitat selection and activity of the vicuña and its only predator, the puma, during three diel periods: day, dawn/dusk, and night. Pumas selected the same habitats regardless of diel period—vegetated and rugged areas that feature stalking cover for pumas—but increased their activity levels during dawn/dusk and night when they benefit from reduced detection by prey. Vicuñas avoided areas selected by pumas and reduced activity at night, but selected vegetated areas and increased activity by day and dawn/dusk. Vicuña habitat selection and movement strategies appeared to reduce the risk of encountering pumas; movement rates of pumas and vicuñas were negatively correlated across the diel cycle, and habitat selection was negatively correlated during dawn/dusk and night. Our study shows that an ambush predator’s temporal activity and space use patterns interact to create diel refugia and shape the antipredator behaviors of its prey. Importantly, it is likely the very nature of ambush predators’ static habitat specificity that makes predator activity important to temporally varying perceptions of risk. Prey which depend on risky habitats for foraging appear to mitigate risk by feeding when they can more easily detect predators and when predators are least active.

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We thank J. Gallo (San Guillermo National Park) for logistic support; B. Jansen and O. Alcumbrac for assistant with wildlife captures; and San Guillermo rangers F. Marinero, J. Esquivel, I. Esquivel, J. Cavallero, Hugo Godoy, and Anibal Saavedra, as well as San Guillermo Provincial Reserve personnel and 18 volunteers for field and laboratory assistance. P. Perrig and B. Varela contributed significantly to data collection. We thank O. Bidder for compiling environmental layers. Research permits were issued by the Argentinean National Park Administration. This work was supported by the National Geographic Society (CRE 9341-13), Devonwood Foundation, Rufford Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society, Species Conservation Foundation (Germany), and Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies.

Author information

JAS, ED, and ADM conceived of the study. ED, JNP, MJS, and ADM provided materials. ED, JNP, and ADM collected the data. JAS analyzed the data. JAS and ADM wrote the manuscript, and ED, JNP, and MJS contributed to revisions.

Correspondence to Justine A. Smith.

Additional information

Communicated by Christopher Whelan.

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Smith, J.A., Donadio, E., Pauli, J.N. et al. Integrating temporal refugia into landscapes of fear: prey exploit predator downtimes to forage in risky places. Oecologia 189, 883–890 (2019).

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  • Activity
  • Diel migration
  • Puma concolor
  • Predation risk
  • Resource selection
  • Temporal partitioning
  • Vicugna vicugna