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Size‐Related Effects on Search Times in North American Grassland Female Ungulates

Berger, Joel, Cunningham, Carol
Ecology 1988 v.69 no.1 pp. 177-183
Antilocapra americana, Bison bison, Canis lupus, Odocoileus hemionus, Ovis canadensis, bison, diet, females, grasslands, group size, habitats, interspecific variation, predation, predators, variance, wolves
Feeding and searching (= vigilance) rates arise as a result of many interrelated factors including trophic level, diet, reproductive condition, sex, habitat, body mass, and potential predation pressure. Because of unique ecological conditions in which the confounding influences of all but two of these variables could be minimized, we examined the hypothesis that body mass alone accounts for interspecific differences in search times, and tested it with females of four sympatric native North American ungulates (Bison bison, Antilocapra americana, Ovis canadensis, and Odocoileus hemionus). When the effects of group size were controlled, smaller bodied species were more vigilant (per unit body mass) than larger ones. However, search times (ST) also scaled to body mass, and between 81 and 97% of the ST variance was explained by either exponential or power functions. To remove the potential bias that predators exert different influences on species of varying size, search times of bison in areas with and without their major predator, wolves (Canis lupus), were contrasted; search times did not differ between sites. Our results highlight the importance of designing field research that controls for confounding variables prior to attempting to scale behavioral processes to ecological events.