Bulletin of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 67, Issue 5, pp 1081–1106

Cats protecting birds revisited


DOI: 10.1016/j.bulm.2004.12.002

Cite this article as:
Fan, M., Kuang, Y. & Feng, Z. Bull. Math. Biol. (2005) 67: 1081. doi:10.1016/j.bulm.2004.12.002


In this paper, we revisit the dynamical interaction among prey (bird), mesopredator (rat), and superpredator (cat) discussed in [Courchamp, F., Langlais, M., Sugihara, G., 1999. Cats protecting birds: modelling the mesopredator release effect. Journal of Animal Ecology 68, 282–292]. First, we develop a prey-mesopredator-superpredator (i.e., bird-rat-cat, briefly, BRC) model, where the predator’s functional responses are derived based on the classical Holling’s time budget arguments. Our BRC model overcomes several model construction problems in Courchamp et al. (1999), and admits richer, reasonable and realistic dynamics. We explore the possible control strategies to save or restore the bird by controlling or eliminating the rat or the cat when the bird is endangered. We establish the existence of two types of mesopredator release phenomena: severe mesopredator release, where once superpredators are suppressed, a burst of mesopredators follows which leads their shared prey to extinction; and mild mesopredator release, where the mesopredator release could assert more negative impact on the endemic prey but does not lead the endemic prey to extinction. A sharp sufficient criterion is established for the occurrence of severe mesopredator release. We also show that, in a prey-mesopredator-superpredator trophic food web, eradication of introduced superpredators such as feral domestic cats in the BRC model, is not always the best solution to protect endemic insular prey. The presence of a superpredator may have a beneficial effect in such systems.

Copyright information

© Society for Mathematical Biology 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Mathematics and Statistics and Key Laboratory for Vegetation Ecology of the Education MinistryNortheast Normal UniversityChangchun, JilinPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Department of MathematicsPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations