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Behavioral responses of goitered gazelles to potential threats

  • D. A. BlankEmail author
Original Paper
  • 13 Downloads

Abstract

Prey species have to recognize a predator, assess its potential threat, and adjust its behavioral responses according to the magnitude of the perceived predation risk. In many studies of antipredator behavior in prey animals, simulated threats, such as human activities (movements, approaching prey), have been used as experimental threat factors, often in controlled circumstances, while prey responses to other animals in natural environments have been less investigated. This paper discusses the responses of goitered gazelles in the wild during encounters with various animals in their natural habitat to evaluate their cues used to assess the magnitude of potential threats. This study found that the goitered gazelles’ behavioral responses to perceived risk differed across the various species sharing their habitat, with kulan recognized as a minimal threat and Siberian ibex the most threatening among ungulates. Among predators, the fox caused the least fear, while a horseman with a dog was identified as the greatest threat, with a wolf falling in between. Goitered gazelles adjusted their responses depending on the traits of the species encountered, while the features and conditions in their local environment played a less significant role. During encounters with other species, the gazelles ranked them according to their potential risk level based on the animal’s appearance and behavior. The gazelles did distinguish between predators and other species and reacted to them differently: from pursuing and harassing the smallest (fox), to a panicky, running escape from their most dangerous natural predator (wolf), and especially from their most lethal, non-natural “predator” (herdsmen—mainly local poachers). Thus, this study suggested that goitered gazelles differentiate between predator species, assess their traits and intentions in each particular setting, and respond in the most advantageous way to each threat challenge.

Keywords

Antipredator behavior Escaping flight Goitered gazelle Predation risk Predators Prey risk assessment 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I thank the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) for The Strategic Priority Research Program (XDA20020101) for granting our work and creating all conditions for writing this paper. I am very grateful to the Institute of Zoology, former Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan, which has given me the possibility to study goitered gazelles in their natural environment for 10 years. I am grateful to Ms. Patricia Johnston for her useful suggestions and remarks and constant help in the English editing of this manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center for Ecology and Environment of Central AsiaBishkekKyrgyzstan
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Biogeography and Bioresources in Arid Land, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and GeographyThe Chinese Academy of SciencesUrumqiChina
  3. 3.Al-Farabi Kazakh National UniversityAlmatyKazakhstan

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