Predator/Prey Decisions and the Ecology of Fear

  • Mridula SrinivasanEmail author
Part of the Ethology and Behavioral Ecology of Marine Mammals book series (EBEMM)


Animal behaviors are governed by the intrinsic need to survive and reproduce. Even when sophisticated predators and prey are involved, these tenets of behavioral ecology hold. Similar to humans, fear can be a strong motivator for change in animals. The terrestrial ecology literature is replete with examples of fear-mediated behavioral effects on species and community networks. In contrast, the marine mammal literature is sparse in its recognition and consideration of nonconsumptive effects or risk effects arising from powerful and lethal predators, such as killer whales and large sharks. This chapter encapsulates the ecology of fear concept by providing representative examples from the marine mammal literature with consideration of prey and predator perspectives. Additionally, research data gaps and new avenues for scientific examination are highlighted within documented examples. Lastly, conservation practitioners and marine mammal scientists are encouraged to adapt theoretical concepts and methods from predation risk studies to better understand the effects of nonbiological stressors on marine mammal species.


Ecology of fear Killer whales Sharks Predation risk Risk effects Trait-mediated indirect interactions Trophic cascades 



Illustrations are by Jacqui Fenner, ECS Federal, under contract to the Office of Science and Technology, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office of Science and Technology, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationSilver SpringUSA

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